Report on Psychology Group Meeting - Meeting, Friday, 17 June 2016

We met at our usual time and venue with John taking the chair. As decided at our last meeting we watched the second half of David Eagleman’s programme on the psychology of decision making as seen from a cognitive psychologist’s viewpoint.

In this second part he looks into the preconscious physiological factors that can influence our decision making processes even when taking very important group decisions in a public forum. A compelling example comes from the observation of many American parole board proceedings and judgements. Researchers found that the success or otherwise of a parole application depended to a surprising extent on what time on day the application was heard particularly in relation to lunch breaks. Even where the circumstances of the parolees were very similar they were more likely to succeed in their application by a significant margin than if their case was heard after the one hour lunch break rather than before it. Eagleman puts this down to the effect of ‘ego fatigue’ occurring before lunch which was relieved by rest and the modest intake of food during the midday break. Following this observational research the parole board member’s claimed to have been unaware that such factors had had any influence upon their judgements.

Eagleman also quoted other studies where the influence of hormones or parental DNA it was claimed could alter the course of an individual’s decision making. Oxytocin a hormone for instance was claimed to reinforce the attraction one feels to one’s established partner as opposed to what one might feel towards other equally attractive individuals. It was also claimed that the DNA one inherited from one’s parents could itself influence a person’s political views. In the discussion that followed the viewing many of us felt, however, that whilst these factors might have some preconscious influence on our decisions there were a host of social factors that also needed to be taken into account.

One area of decision making that is of profound practical importance to us all is that of financial operations whether it involves our own money or the workings of the economy as a whole. After discussing this we decided to continue with this theme into our next meeting and explore the importance of psychology in the world of money.

We will meet again on Friday the 15th July between 2 and 4 pm at The Owl Hotel in Hambleton and I look forward to seeing you all again then.
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