Two Ways to Make Smarter Choices Next Time

1. Don’t Get Anchored Down

How would you answer these two questions?

1. Is the population of Turkey greater than 35 million?

2. What’s your best estimate of Turkey’s population?

Actually the sequence of the questions contaminates your answer. If you are like most people, the figure of 35 million (researchers chose this number arbitrarily) influenced your answer to the second question. When people were asked both questions, rather than just the second one, their answers were much higher.  That’s because their guess was unconsciously anchored by the large number they heard in the first question.

Insight: When considering a decision, the mind gives disproportionate weight to the first information it receives.  Initial impressions, estimates, or other data anchor subsequent thoughts and judgments.  The implications for influencing someone else’s perceptions are mind-boggling and can take many guises.  A colleague who offers a comment, or a statistic  ill influence your subsequent decision making on that topic.

In business, one of the most frequent “anchors” is a past event or trend.  A marketer in attempting to project sales of a product for the coming year often begins by looking at the sales volumes for past years. This approach tends to put too much weight on past history and not enough weight on other factors.

Because anchors influence how others see a situation, savvy negotiators use them to influence how someone feels about a political issue or options for taking sides.

Tip: Reduce the decision warping effect of anchoring by remaining open-minded. Seek information and opinions from a variety of people to widen your frame of reference, without dwelling disproportionately on the information or opinion you hear first.

2. When to Stop Digging

The more actions you have taken on behalf of a belief, choice or friendship, the more difficult you find it to change your mind or even acknowledge that you now feel differently.

Whenever you invest time, money, or other resource or your personal reputation is at stake, the more strongly you will defend your position and resist changing your mind. Just knowing that effect can help you overcome it.

Suppose, after walking around a store, a genial, low-key sales clerk casually asks you to describe your favorite thing in  the store.  You answer.  She asks you to elaborate, then to  show her.

Insight: Each time you move, speak and demonstrate what you mean, you deepen your belief, get more articulate about it and are more likely to tell others your view after you leave the store.

Tip: For all decisions in which you have a history of past actions make a conscious effort to set aside your previous investments of emotion, money or other resource, as you consider whether to change direction.  Seek out and listen to people who were uninvolved with the earlier decisions.  Examine why admitting to an earlier mistake distresses you, if it does.

As Warren Buffet once famously said, “When you find yourself in a hole, the best thing you can do is stop digging.”

Find more ways to make smarter choices:

I Was Completely Surprised by His Behavior

How Groups Can Make Better Choices

Since Smart People Sometimes Act Stupid….

Turn More Situations Into Opportunities to Connect

Also explore other ideas on why we behave the way we do, and how we can connect with others.

One Response to “Two Ways to Make Smarter Choices Next Time”

  1. Luke W Says:

    sage advice for keeping focused and making objective, rational decisions. a nice wee prod back onto the right track, thanks for sharing..

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