Now that the flurry that is August has subsided, a few quick hits to remind us that we are all, well, Undecided.
And apparently there are enough of us out there to prompt our own marketing niche. Hence, The New Decider Watch? Terminally undecided? Simply sneak a peak at your wrist:
The New Decider helps you make decisions: as the seconds tick round the words “yes” and “no” are alternately displayed. When you need to make a decision, simply glance at the watch for your answer. A magnifying dome sits just above the answer window to aid visibility
The New Decider may not always be right, but as Tony Soprano observes,“a wrong decision is better than indecision”.
The wisdom of Tony Soprano notwithstanding, we may think that indecision leads to stress. And clearly, it does. But a new study out of Portugal suggests that stress itself can lead to bad decision-making. The study, published in the July 31st of Science, reveals that chronic stress can switch our brain onto automatic pilot, so that we make choices out of habit, rather than thoughtful cognition:
The researchers looked into goal-orientated decisions (so those where consequences are taken into account) and automatic decisions (so those resulting from habit) as well as the switch between the two, and how this was affected by chronic stress.
To answer that Ferreira and colleagues used rats exposed to chronic stress and, together with normal control rats, put them through training to learn to press a lever in order to obtain food rewards. Both stressed and control rats responded very similarly, rising the number of pressings with time as they learned that this would increase the rewards obtained.
But when the situation was changed by feeding the animals on the side, so making the food rewards less appealing, while control rats were able to re-evaluate the situation and diminish the number of pressings, stressed rats continued to push the lever constantly despite the effort this required. This suggested that once a habit was established stressed animals were no longer capable of switching the response back.
On another topic, but clearly related, Meryl Streep riffs on work-life balance and gender issues, Hollywood style, in a ten-minute interview she granted
salon.com a few weeks back. Love what she says here:
You had a famous quip in the 1990s about how difficult it was for older women to get good roles — that Hollywood producers don’t want to cast women who remind them of their first wives. Recently, you’ve said that you don’t think anything has changed dramatically. And yet you’re wildly in demand …
I don’t think they have changed dramatically, otherwise all the actors my age would be working as much as I am. And I think I have surfed a wave of very good fortune. I guess, starting with [“The Devil Wears Prada”] it has to do with the money coming back in big blockbusters. But if there were more female-driven, interesting projects that were widely distributed … That audience is there, they want to go.
There does seem to be a strange amnesia after women-targeted films, like “Mamma Mia,” are huge hits.
In the blogosphere. Because the blogosphere is still mostly fellas. Somehow they have all the spare time because — I guess, someone else is cooking, or cleaning, or doing whatever it is that needs to be done. [Laughs]
In other words, we may be the breadwinners, but we’re still expected to, um, butter the toast? USA Today reports that by October or November of this year, women will represent the majority of workers. But will numbers give us parity or equality. Nope. From the article:
The change reflects the growing importance of women as wage earners, but it doesn’t show full equality, Hartmann says. On average, women work fewer hours than men, hold more part-time jobs and earn 77% of what men make, she says. Men also still dominate higher-paying executive ranks.
On the other hand, we may not be fully represented in the boardrooms, but we do have spending power. According to “WOMEN WANT MORE: How to Capture Your Share of the World’s Largest, Fastest-Growing Market” (HarperBusiness, September 2009), educated working women may drive the new economy, with some $5 trillion in incremental earnings to spend. Which may give us some leverage, at least as consumers. From a press release about the book:
“WOMEN WANT MORE” is based on The Boston Consulting Group Global Inquiry into Women and Consumerism, a survey of more than 12,000 women in 22 countries around the world, comprehensive one-on-one interviews, as well as the authors’ decades of experience with companies and consumers worldwide. The survey results show that women are dissatisfied with the products and services available to them in many categories, largely because companies misunderstand women’s issues and fail to answer their needs. Most of all, women are overwhelmed by demands on their time and the challenges of dealing with the many roles they typically play — as wives, mothers, partners, professionals, friends, colleagues, sisters, and daughters.
And finally, this being the day after Labor Day, a back-to-school item. Newsday.com reports that as the economy falls, the number of college students stressed about choosing a major spikes. (Dirty little secret: Your major? Doesn’t always matter.) The response, on some campuses, is to relieve students’ anxiety by encouraging them to take a taste test to find what they truly love, rather than worrying about a career. Others, such as Hofstra, are piloting programs to help students navigate the decision-making process:
Ten students will meet once a week for two months and participate in a series of exercises designed to reveal their talents, skills and interests. By the end of eight weeks, the goal is for each to choose a major.
“They come in thinking they absolutely have to know what they’re doing from the beginning of freshman year,” said Jayne Brownell, assistant vice president of student affairs. “But they are putting false pressure on themselves, and placing too much importance on the choice of a major in determining life success.”
Brownell ought to know. She majored in women’s studies at Rutgers University. “When people asked me my major and what I was going to do when I graduated, I didn’t have an answer,” she said. She spent five years as a business manager for an advertising company right after graduation.
“You’re not going to have one career anymore,” she said. “That isn’t the way the world works. I think my education served me very well over time.”