Hormones Have a Say
We can control sleep and hunger, but some factors that affect decision making are simply biological. For instance, women have a monthly cycle during which their hormones fluctuate. Most of us know that it influences our skin, body shape, and even our cravings, but it also plays a part in the options we’re pulled toward when making a choice. At the UK’s Aston University in 2007, thirteen women not under hormone-influencing medication were asked to give job packages of varying statuses to dominant- and non-dominant-looking men. The study found that certain stages of women’s cycles affected who they gave job packages to. For instance, those in the follicular (first) phase favored the dominant men. Other research has suggested that women view faces differently depending on cycle stages as well.
Men’s hormones fluctuate and affect their decision making abilities as well. Cambridge University professors John Coates and Joe Herbert performed a study that tested seventeen traders’ testosterone levels and compared them to their work results. They found that those who made money in the morning experienced a testosterone surge that ultimately led to risky, bad decisions. Coates and Herbert theorized that the increased testosterone in the morning fueled their desire to take chances and act aggressively, which had a negative impact on their performance for the rest of the day.
As an indecisive person who strives to overcome that label, I know that there are some things I do–like asking multiple people for advice–and some things I don’t do, like follow my gut–that lead to a struggle with choice. But there’s some comfort in knowing that there are actions I can take toward making better decisions, like getting enough sleep and eating right. Although, it’s nice to know I can pin the blame on factors beyond my reach every once in a while. (It’s not me, it’s my cycle!) That won’t make me a better decider, but it may ease the guilt from time to time.