Creative Leadership

How Shallow Are Most of Your Decisions?

We’d like to think that when it comes to picking friends, electing political candidates, or major life choices, we’re pretty good at checking things out before making a decision. But Dan Ariely, writing in the Wall Street Journal, explodes that myth with recent research. In fact, it appears we rarely do little more than base our opinion on how someone looks:

“Alex Todorov, a Princeton psychology professor, showed some Princeton undergraduates pictures of people running for local office in Canada and asked them to rate the trustworthiness of the candidates. The Princeton students had never seen these people before and knew nothing about local elections in Canada. Dr. Todorov then examined the number of elections won by the candidates in the photos and found that the students’ ratings of trustworthiness predicted more than 90% of the election results. It would appear that Canadian voters made basically the same judgment: They evaluated their politicians through simple, superficial judgments based on their faces.”

Think about that: “Simple, superficial judgments based on their faces.” We’d like to think we make major decisions based on our personal values, reflection, and knowledge, but this research reveals that in most cases, we simply make quick, emotional judgments, usually based on how people look.

Think long and hard about that before you hire someone, pick a real estate agent, select a babysitter, or vote in an election. As Ariely closed his article in the case of politics: “Maybe we need to go back and read what politicians are saying rather than just watch them perform on stage.”

I couldn’t agree more.

(Photo by Stock Snap)

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  1. This reminds me of the first televised presidential debate – people listening on the radio said Nixon won while those watching on television said Kennedy won. To me this almost goes back to your post about amateurs and professionals – even the clothing we wear communicates to the people we meet, and first impressions are lasting impressions. But I agree completely that we should be more informed before we make decisions.

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