Research Position-Nicole Clark

Sleeping on Decisions

Decisions are made each and every day.  No matter how big or small the decision, it is necessary to use some sort of thought process to come to a conclusion.  It is difficult to believe that sleeping on a decision is the best way to come to a result; but this is known to be completely true.  When an individual sleeps, the brain collects all of the information regarding the decision that needs to be made.  Sleeping takes up a large amount of the day and is very important to humans in general. In other words, the more someone sleeps, the more time they are given to gather information.  Not only will it be easier to form a conclusion, but the decision will also be well-thought out.  Taking time out of the day to rest as well as getting enough sleep at night is a great way to subconsciously gather one’s thoughts, focus on a decision and refrain from all of the other problems that are occurring.  Sleeping on it is known as the best way to make a decision.

Sleep is a very important factor in the decision making process as a whole.  In the Current Decision of Neurobiology, it is stated that, “Viewed from this perspective, the neurobiology of decision making offers a window on to brain mechanisms that support cognition, and it allows us to appreciate the rudiments of cognition in simpler behaviors.”  Neurobiology gives us a way to understand how we as humans decide on a decision and how the brain works in the process.  It is known that action and insight are two of the main contributors in the decision making process.  In the Current Decision of Neurobiology, it is also stated that, “Several contributions focus on perception and action. This is not surprising since sensory psychophysics has always incorporated a decision stage to connect perception to choice and response time.”  These factors play a huge role in the decision making process.  In many studies and experiments, factors like action, time, and perception are known to play a huge role in decision making.  This is the reason why scientists use these as a way to conduct experiments regarding decision making and unconscious thought.  These factors are known to help identify the senses used in the decision making process.

Sleep is a very important part of life that many people take for granted.  Why else would we spend nearly half of our time doing it?  The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke states, “Until the 1950s, most people thought of sleep as a passive, dormant part of our daily lives. We now know that our brains are very active during sleep. Moreover, sleep affects our daily functioning and our physical and mental health in many ways that we are just beginning to understand.”  It is certainly true that sleep is a time for both physical and mental relaxation and rest.  However, not many people know that while the body may be completely asleep and at ease, the mind stays “awake” and active.  Information our subconscious mind deems as important, in regards to a mental dilemma, is collected and processed while we sleep.  The decision making process becomes easier consciously, once the mind takes the time to recall all of the data gathered subconsciously.

We as humans pass through five phases of sleep. In stage one; we usually drift in and out of mental consciousness.  Stage one is like the transition between being awake and unconscious.   In stage two, an individual’s eye movement is known to stop, body temperature decreases and the sleeper’s heart rate begins to slow down.  Stage three starts with slow waves called delta waves that eventually turn into faster waves.  An individual goes from light sleep to a much deeper sleep. The fourth stage is known by many as “deep sleep” which is considered the hardest stage to be woken up from.  At the end of stage four is when most sleepwalking and bed wetting occurs.  Lastly, the REM stage consists of a hard, deep sleep which includes dreaming.  REM sleep is given signals from the base of the brain called the pons. These signals go to the outer part of the brain where the brain is known for thinking, recollecting information and learning new things.  Knowing the scientific stages of sleep helps individuals understand what happens in the brain each and every night during sleep.  The body may be completely asleep but the brain is very much awake, using everything it can as it would if the body was awake.

Sleep can also be known as unconscious thought.  Surprisingly, unconscious and conscious thought work together in the decision making process to reach a decision.  They need each other to make better quality decisions.  Conscious thought uses attention in all aspects whereas unconscious thought does not use attention at all.  Many do not know that one’s unconscious thought is more important that conscious thought.  Unconscious thought is known to articulate the information when the conscious thought it needed to actually make the decision.  For example, when speaking, an individual needs the conscious thought process to speak correctly while the unconscious thought processes are needed for it to actually work.  In conclusion, the two processes cannot work without the help from each other.  Unconscious thought is very vital while making decisions and is needed to actually make a decision.

In the Journal of Consumer Psychology, it is said that unconscious thought leads to automatic weighting.  The conscious thought is stated to receive a smaller amount of weight.  This article describes how the decision making process and weighting process is much better when facts and issues other than the main problem are put off to the side.  When these problems are put off to the side and are not thought of, it makes it easier for the brain to weigh the pros and cons of the issue.  The importance of the attributes needed to make a decision are not usually thought of or taken into consideration.  Many people do not weigh the positive and negative attributes in the decision making process.  When an individual rushes to a conclusion or makes a decision as quickly as possible, they do not weigh the positive and negative outcomes.   In order to make a decision, these thinkers need to think of the pros and cons of the issue at hand.

Marteen Bos, a social psychologist and researcher at Radboud University and Amy Cuddy who is an assistant professor at Harvard Business School wrote in The Harvard Business Review regarding the steps in the decision making process.  They decided on three steps that could overall affect the decision that needs to be made.  The first step involves taking all of the necessary information in that is needed to make the decision.  Gathering all of the information possible before making an important decision is vital.  The second step is known as sleeping on the decision.  This gives the mind a chance to process all of the information needed to make the final step in the decision process.  The use of the unconscious brain is necessary in the decision making process and it also gives the brain a chance to focus on the issue at hand rather than other unimportant problems.  The last step in the process is known as checking all of the facts regarding the situation.  Information is significant when deciding what to do and checking all of the facts regarding the problem can help in the long run.  These steps are very important in the decision making process.  Following each step thoroughly will make it easier to solve problems and make a hard decision.

It is believed by many that gut decision or first instinct is always right or useful in certain situations.  But, when an individual uses one’s first instinct, the information needed to form a decision; data needed is not completely there.  When a person sleeps on the decision, the brain gathers all of the information needed for the decision making process to begin and work properly.  Making first instinct decisions may result in a dangerous outcome.  Most people would react off of their gut and express feelings out of anger or hatred.  After lashing out, they may feel guilt of regret.  This is not known to be a rational approach in the decision making process.  Sleeping on a situation and comparing alternate decisions result in the situation ending in an overall positive way.  Gut decisions are made without deep thought and sleeping is the best way to gather all thought and facts regarding a situation.  Spur of the moment decisions should never be made without thoroughly thinking about the decision.

From WHYY in Philadelphia, Terry Gross interviews Jonah Lehrer, the author of, “How We Decide.”  The book is a good depiction of how the human mind actually makes decisions and what goes through the brain when thinking of an important decision.  Jonah Lehrer defines paralysis through analysis which he went through when deciding what cereal to buy in the supermarket.  Lehrer explains, “I come up with long lists of reasons to prefer honey-nut Cheerios, and then I look at the apple-cinnamon Cheerios, and then I come up with long lists of reasons to prefer apple-cinnamon Cheerios, and it goes on and on like that. I’m stuck in this loop of self-consciousness where I come up with reason after reason after reason.”  Sitting in the supermarket, overthinking the decision, does him absolutely no good at all.  He knows that thinking too much about the situation makes the decision process harder.

After John had spoken about the decision, Terry Gross then said, “Now let me just ask you, before we get to other things that you report on in your book, if you were making that decision in that same supermarket aisle now, knowing what you know now about the brain and decision-making, how would you do it differently?”  Lehrer responds, “I still take a little too long in the cereal aisle, to be perfectly honest. But now what I try to do is I try to honestly pay attention to what I refer to in the book as the emotional brain, that part of my brain that has a better understanding of what I actually want to eat for breakfast.”  Lehrer believes that the emotional brain is an important aspect in decision making.  Taking too long in the aisle and overthinking a decision is not good in the decision making process.  It is better to think less about the problem and let your brain focus on one issue at a time.  When thinking about an issue too much, the brain can get overcrowded and get tired from all of the other events occurring in one’s life.  This helps describe how sleeping is the best way to make a rational decision.  Overthinking and stressing about many things at one time makes it harder to come to a final conclusion in a difficult situation.

Marteen Bos and Amy Cuddy wrote in The Harvard Business Review regarding the steps in the decision making process.  They decided on three steps that could overall affect the decision that needs to be made.  The first step involves taking all of the necessary information in that is needed to make the decision.  Gathering all of the information possible before making an important decision is vital.  The second step is known as sleeping on the decision.  This gives the mind a chance to process all of the information needed to make the final step in the decision process.  The use of the unconscious brain is necessary in the decision making process and it also gives the brain a chance to focus on the issue at hand rather than other unimportant problems.  The last step in the process is known as checking all of the facts regarding the situation.  Information is significant when deciding what to do and checking all of the facts regarding the problem can help in the long run.  These steps are very important in the decision making process.  Following each step thoroughly will make it easier to solve problems and make a hard decision.

Sleep is one of the most important necessities in our daily lives. Making decisions is part of life and sleeping is the best way to gather information by taking time to relax and weigh the pros and cons.  Making spur of the moment decisions are not the best way to make important, life-changing decisions.  Sleeping on it and letting the brain collect information and data for the decision is the best way to make a decision.  The complex decision-making process starts off by using sleep as the best time to thoroughly make a quality decision.

Works Cited

BeersHenny, Pieter J. “Common Ground, Complex Problems and Decision Making.” Group Decision and Negotiation 15.6 (2006): 529-56. ProQuest. Web. 24 Apr. 2013.

“Brain Basics: Understanding Sleep.”: National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS). N.p., n.d. Web. 2 Apr. 2013.

Dijksterhuis, Ap, and Loran F. Nordgren. “A Theory of Unconscious Thought.” Perspectives on Psychological Science. Vol. 1, No. 2 (Jun., 2006), pp. 95-109.

“HBR Blog Network.” Harvard Business Review. N.p., n.d. Web. 02 Apr. 2013.

“Jonah Lehrer: Passions Of The Brain.” Interview by Terry Gross. Npr. WHYY. Fresh Air, 02 Mar. 2009. Radio.

PACE-SCHOTT E, NAVE G, MORGAN A, SPENCER R. Sleep-dependent modulation ofaffectively guided decision-making. Journal Of Sleep Research [serial online]. February 2012;21(1):30-39. Available from: Academic Search Premier, Ipswich, MA. Accessed April 2, 2013.

“The Benefits of “sleeping on Things”: Unconscious Thought Leads to Automatic Weighting.”ScienceDirect.com. N.p., n.d. Web. 02 Apr. 2013.

“The Unconscious Mind.” The Unconscious Mind. N.p., n.d. Web. 2 Apr. 2013.

“Why ‘Sleeping on It’ Helps.” LiveScience.com. N.p., n.d. Web. 02 Apr. 2013.

“Why “Sleeping on It” Will Help You Make a Better Decision.” CBSNews. CBS Interactive, n.d. Web. 02 Apr. 2013.

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One Response to Research Position-Nicole Clark

  1. davidbdale says:

    Thank god for those honey-nut cheerios, Nicole. I was just starting to wonder if you would EVER get some cows and chips into your essay. I can’t overemphasize the importance of examples and illustrations to keep your reader engaged, ESPECIALLY when the subject matter is as abstract as unconscious thought compared to conscious thought. Get some cheerios into every paragraph.

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