Did you eat breakfast this morning? What did you have? How did you arrive at your choice? Did you sit there and think,
“I can have bacon and eggs… or I can have cereal… or I can have pancakes, etc.”? I bet you didn’t. You see, none of us are truly rational. If we approached every choice in life in a truly rational way, we’d never get anything done.
There are hundreds of possible breakfasts you could have. Yet, to get to the one you did have, you probably spent no more than a few seconds contemplating the choice. That’s nowhere near long enough to go through a list of all the breakfasts and eliminate the contenders. Knowing what’s involved there is the secret code to unlocking secrets in our design world.
Choosing what to have for breakfast isn’t a rational decision—thankfully; otherwise, choosing your breakfast might take your entire lifetime, which wouldn’t be very long once starvation set in.
The Appearance of Rationality
We all think we’re rational, sensible people who weigh up the choices and make careful decisions. Yet, that’s not really how we work. We may give a moment to debate between a couple of breakfast options, but we give no more thought to it than that.
The truth is that the vast majority of our decision making is processed at a sub-rational level. Many of our decisions are made on autopilot; we fall out of bed, stagger into the kitchen, put some bread in the toaster and make a cup of coffee. It’s just a routine.
Yours may be different from mine, but it’s the only way we can cope with the vast array of choices we make every minute.
“We think, each of us, that we’re much more rational than we are. And we think that we make our decisions because we have good reasons to make them. Even when it’s the other way around. We believe in the reasons, because we’ve already made the decision.”
—Daniel Kahneman, Nobel Prize-winning economist and behaviourist