The Critical Concepts

Decision fatigue is a phenomenon which states that as people continually make decisions, they become increasingly mentally fatigued. This fatigue makes it harder to make decisions, and increases the temptation to take the easy way out of a decision: Doing nothing about it, or to think recklessly and act on impulse. The mind escapes from mental strain by avoiding potential risk.

Ego Depletion is involved in decision fatigue. It theorizes that everyone has a finite reserve of mental energy, which is consumed through mental activity, such as exerting self-control. When people force themselves to do or not do things such as resisting the call of chocolate, or remaining stoic during a tearjerker movie, they use up that mental energy.

The Exceptional Example

The most interesting case of decision fatigue is its application to the poor. People who are poor continually struggle with trade-offs, a more advanced and taxing from of decision-making, also have to struggle with decisions that other people wouldn’t spend time agonizing about, such as whether or not to buy soap. Decisions such as these drain poorer people of their mental reserves, leaving less energy for other tasks such as school, work, and other opportunities that could put them in a more fortunate economic situation.

The most interesting part of this example is how the collective of microeconomic transactions, such as buying soap, can affect a person’s (or an entire family’s) macroeconomic experience. As well, it brings to light a new factor in the ongoing issue that is called poverty    . These small transactions can keep people trapped in the poverty cycle because they are unable to break out of the cycle because of a lack of mental energy.

The Eloquent Experience

On sundays, my family and I go to church, where I regularly play the violin for the choir. Sometimes, afterwards, we go to Tower Records, whether to browse or purchase music. At one time, I had had less than 6 hours of sleep, and no breakfast. I was tempted to sit out of playing the violin for the church choir, but I played anyway. That was also one of the days we would go to Tower Records, where I would buy an album under the principle that I might as well buy it, because I wanted it anyway. The lack of thought on the purchase is a result of the depletion of what little mental energy I might have had as a result of forcing myself to play the violin, and not having had any breakfast.

The Referential  Reflection

This article and the theories it presents brings to light more depth in the way we make decisions. Assuming the theories aren’t disproved, this gives people more to consider when they are going through their everyday lives, whether they are at the supermarket, at a business meeting, or watching commercials at home. People will be able to question their own decisions, whether they were at the best of their mental abilities, and maybe be able to retract a decision and make a potentially better one. This, of course, applies to any decision, including deciding which hotel to stay at your next vacation in Fiji, whether or not Geico can save 15% or more on car insurance, or whether or not to sell all your stocks in Apple.