We recently shared information about the role of decision fatigue (the toll on the quality of choices one makes depending on factors like glucose levels) in determining the best time of day to make a presentation. Decision fatigue can play a part in many other factors related to how we work, think and relate to others.
Decision fatigue can also explain why people who seem to be excellent in providing helpful advice to others can’t seem to come up with good advice for themselves, according to a new study co-authored by Evan Polman, a marketing professor at the University of Wisconsin’s School of Business.
“By taking on the role of adviser rather than decision-maker, one does not suffer the consequences of decision fatigue. It is as if there is something fun and liberating about making someone else’s choice.”
– Evan Polman
According to Polman and his co-author, Kathleen D. Vohs, a professor at the Carlson School of Business at the University of Minnesota, making decisions for others is easier because it’s more enjoyable.
“Choosing for others is more enjoyable,” they write. “For that reason, it’s easier to suggest solutions for other than to make decisions for yourself.” When people imagine themselves as advisers and imagine their own choices as belonging to someone else, they feel less tired and rely less on decision shortcuts to make those choices.
The worst person to ask for advice is someone who loves to help others.
That’s because a person who cares deeply about others can also suffer from decision fatigue when advising others, presenting the potential for bad advice, says Polman. “For example, research has found that nurses who are particularly high in empathy experience career burnout more often than nurses who are less empathetic,” he says.
The best person to ask for advice is someone relatively dispassionate to your circumstances, someone who doubts others and thinks highly of themselves.
According to Polman, the kind of self-interested person who values their own opinion over the opinions of others is a good candidate to make choices for others. They’re less drained by making those choices, and therefore make choices that are not susceptible to decision fatigue (unless those decisions are for themselves).