Not as Undecided as I Thought! October 31, 2008Posted by gordonwatts in life, politics.
AS we enter the final week of a seemingly endless election campaign, opinion polls continue to identify a substantial fraction of voters who consider themselves “undecided.” … Comedians and other commentators have portrayed these people as fools, unable to choose even when confronted with the starkest of contrasts.
I had no idea when I wrote that post that others were also making fun of these people. However, I pulled a “Bush” – I went off on the undecided’s without actually doing any research to see what was really going on. In my own defense: this blog is free!
The NYT’s, however, is not the same. They did some research:
Recent research in neuroscience and psychology, however, suggests that most undecided voters may be smarter than you think. They’re not indifferent or unable to make clear comparisons between the candidates. They may be more willing than others to take their time — or else just unaware that they have essentially already made a choice.
Without other information I would have guessed the latter. I’m sure it has happened to you before: someone drops by and asks for advice. After a while it becomes clear they have already decided in their head which way they want to go and are looking for confirmation or just trying to make sure nothing was missed.
They also point out why a common technique of people who are “efficient” (but perhaps not always right) works:
In measurements of decision-related neural activity, after there is enough evidence to reach a person’s decision threshold, his brain can ignore further input even when it might improve accuracy. The brain goes ahead and decides, freeing up mental resources to deal with other problems.
I suppose the key is knowing what decisions to take a long time with and what decisions to make quickly and move on with.
As far as the current contest is concerned: I moved on a while ago!