Why do snap decisions only work sometimes?

Snap decisions may only be worth the time they take

We’ve all heard that more and more consumers will abandon your website if it takes too long to load. Depending upon who you ask, a one second delay can result in 11% fewer page views, and every second it takes encourages more visitors to bail.

Malcolm Gladwell’s book “Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking explores the idea that snap decisions may be better than carefully considered ones, especially when you live in an age of information overload. Having too much information may actually be confusing to someone making a decision, even leading to “analysis paralysis.” Gladwell believes that most of the time, more information simply reinforces or confirms an initial feeling, but does not necessarily make it more accurate.

Psychologists have confirmed that our brains have evolved to make these short-cut decisions, based on past experiences with our environment. Too much information or too many variables make our brain slow down and falter. (Probably not a good thing to happen if you need to react quickly to a potential threat to your survival.)

Of course, not everyone agrees with Gladwell’s premise that snap decisions are better, and obviously not every snap decision works out for the best:

  • How many of us have made a negative judgement call when meeting someone new, only to become friends later?
  • Have you ever wondered how snap decisions may have impacted our interaction with people different than ourselves?
  • How has it affected our business opportunities? Have we been too quick to dismiss something that could have been a perfect fit?

So why do snap decisions only work sometimes?

According to Nobel Prize winner Daniel Kahneman, snap decisions are emotional reactions that are based on past experiences you have had, and are often influenced by whether you are loss-averse (more likely to act in order to avoid a loss than to achieve a gain) or optimistic (believe you have substantial control over your life), and the importance you place on the probabilities of something happening (i.e., consequences).

Personally, I plan to leave the snap decisions to when I’m facing a life-or-death decision — burning buildings, terrorists on airplanes, that car braking suddenly in front of me — that sort of thing. Until then, I’d rather take the time to make sure I know I am making a good decision, not just a quick one.

But slow-loading websites still drive me crazy. I’m outta there in a snap.

Kent Dicken

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