A Fancy Neuroscientist Reckons This is the Only Big Life Decision That Actually Matters

News. Posted 10 months ago

Catalogue Staff

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Moran Cerf is a neuroscientist at Northwestern University and has been studying decision-making in humans for more than a decade. Safe to say Cerf has a pretty good idea about what we can do to maximise happiness, and it ain’t wellness. Sorry kale! Sorry yoga leggings! Sorry #gratitude!

Apparently, the key to leading a happy life, or at least having has many happy feelings as possible, is who you decide to spend your time with. But, it’s still a solution that’s more complicated than that “live, laugh, love” you sat on an AirBnb once.

According to the Business Insider, the two premises that led Cerf to believing personal company “the most important factor for long-term satisfaction” are:

1) DECISION MAKING IS TIRING. Oh wow. That statement is real. Research also actually shows that people have a pretty limited amount of mental energy available for making choices. No matter how small, or how big, they require a lot from our brains. Prob why choosing a Netflix show is so hard, amirite? In fact, here’s a neuroscientist lifestyle anecdote for you: Cerf always picks the second menu item on the list of specials when dining out to save some precious brain-space.

2) HUMANS FALSELY BELIEVE THEY ARE IN FULL CONTROL OF THEIR HAPPINESS. Cerf says NOPE to the easy idea that if we make good choices, we’ll have happy lives. Fact is, all decision-making is very, very biased. Our judgement isn’t really real: we misremember key moments, emotions make sure nothing we do can ever really be rational, and we misuse social cues.

But, there’s still light at the end of the existential tunnel. His research has also concluded that when two people are in each other’s company, their brainwaves will start to look almost identical; for example, the most engaging movie trailers produce very similar patterns in movie-goers’ brains. Spooky.

“The more we study engagement, we see time and again that just being next to certain people actually aligns your brain with them…This means the people you hang out with actually have an impact on your engagement with reality beyond what you can explain. And one of the effects is you become alike.”

So, Cerf says, if you want a happy life, surround yourself with people who have the traits you prefer, and over time, you’ll pick up those traits, too. Expanding on Cerf’s restaurant policy, he explains that he also tries to avoid picking the restaurant, too. Instead, he only makes one decision: who to eat with, someone he trusts, and they will pick somewhere he’ll like.

So there you go! Be that annoying friend who always answers “Oh, I don’t know” when asked what they want for dinner, and tax your special friend who like the most instead! CONFIRMATION OF OUR BEST LIVES.


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