Mindfulness Improves Decision Making

Decision makingOne 15-minute focused-breathing meditation may help people make smarter choices, according to new research from researchers at INSEAD and The Wharton School. The findings are published in the February issue of Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science.

People have trouble cutting their losses: They hold on to losing stocks too long, they stay in bad relationships, and they continue to eat large restaurant meals even when they’re full. This behavior, often described as “throwing good money after bad,” is driven by what behavioral scientists call the “sunk-cost bias”:

“Most people have trouble admitting they were wrong when their initial decisions lead to undesirable outcomes,” says researcher Andrew Hafenbrack, lead author on the new research and doctoral candidate at INSEAD. “They don’t want to feel wasteful or that their initial investment was a loss. Ironically, this kind of thinking often causes people to waste or lose more resources in an attempt to regain their initial investment or try to ‘break even.'”

Across a series of studies, Hafenbrack and co-authors found that mindfulness meditation, which cultivates awareness of the present moment and clears the mind of other thoughts, may help to counteract this deep-rooted bias.

“We found that a brief period of mindfulness meditation can encourage people to make more rational decisions by considering the information available in the present moment, while ignoring some of the other concerns that typically exacerbate the ‘sunk cost bias,'” explains Hafenbrack.

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photo by 401(k) 2013

 

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