Do you suffer from decision fatigue when you are sick or anxious or overwhelmed by bad health news? Does your doctor make less well-reasoned decisions about the 10th patient she sees before lunch? How about the surgeon during his second operation of the day? How about the radiologist reading the last mammogram in a daily batch of 60?
A provocative article by John Tierney in Sunday’s NYTimes Magazine adds a new layer of complexity to the body of knowledge collecting around decision-making processes. Considerable news reporting has focused on how cognitive biases influence our judgment and how many of us experience the abundance of choices available to us as a burden rather than a privilege. This article adds to that understanding: Our decision-making abilities appear to be powerfully affected by the demands of repeated decision making as they interact with depleted blood glucose levels. That fatigue mounts over a day of making decisions and as blood glucose levels fall between meals. In response, we tend to either make increasingly impulsive decisions without considering the consequences or to make no decisions at all. Tierney describes a study analyzing 1,100 parole decisions by judges over the course of a year: “Prisoners who appeared early in the morning received parole about 70 percent of the time, while those who appeared late in the day were paroled less than 10 percent of the time.”
The effects reported in the article were Read more »
*This blog post was originally published at Prepared Patient Forum: What It Takes Blog*