New York, March 8: The secret to making a right choice is to delay your decision by fractions of a second, a new study has found.
“Postponing the onset of the decision process by as little as 50 to 100 milliseconds enables the brain to focus attention on the most relevant information and block out irrelevant detractors,” said Jack Grinband, associate research scientist in the Taub Institute for Research on Alzheimer’s Disease and the Aging Brain here.
The delay allows attention to be focused on the target stimulus and helps prevent irrelevant information from interfering with the decision process, the study showed.
“Basically, by delaying decision onset – simply by doing nothing – you are more likely to make a correct decision,” said co-author Tobias Teichert, assistant professor of psychiatry at the University of Pittsburgh.
The researchers conducted two experiments to test their hypothesis that a more effective way to reduce errors might be to delay the decision process so that it starts out with better information.
In the first, participants were shown what looked like a swarm of randomly moving dots (the target stimulus) on a computer monitor and were asked to judge whether the overall motion was to the left or right.
A second and brighter set of moving dots (the distractor) appeared simultaneously in the same location, obscuring the motion of the target.
The second experiment was similar to the first, except that the subjects also heard regular clicks, indicating when they had to respond.
The time allowed for viewing the dots varied between 17 and 500 milliseconds. This condition simulates real life situations, such as driving, where the time to respond is beyond the driver’s control.
The study appeared in the journal PLoS One.