I finally got a chance to write about Patrick O’Brian’s splendid Aubrey-Maturin novels. Captain Jack Aubrey, the hero of those Dickensically rich novels, provides a model of decision-making relevant to the paper reviewed in this week’s Mind Matters,, the weekly blog seminar on mind and brain I edit at sciam.com. This week’s topic is whether big, complicated decisions — buying a car, going to war — can be reliably made with little deliberation. The paper under review argues that you can. Our Mind Matters reviewers, psychologists Alex Haslam and George Loewenstein, differ decisively.
And I get to write about Lucky Jack. The opening of my intro is below — but you should really go read the entire post, which illuminates the richness of the fast-growing discipline of decision science — yet another aspect of the folly of a more famous Decider, George W. Bush.
Here again is the link to the Mind Matters post.
Below, my intro to same:
Introduction to Mind Matters No. 3 Big Decisions: Gut or Head? Hmm….
One of the many pleasures of reading Patrick O’Brian’s splendid Aubrey-Maturin novels, in which the Royal Navy’s Captain Jack Aubrey and surgeon, naturalist, and spy Stephen Maturin navigate challenges nautical, military, medical, musical and philosophical during the Napoleonic era, is witnessing Captain Aubrey’s nearly flawless decisiveness. (At sea, anyway; on land he is one long blunder.) Whether the question regards putting on more sail, engaging a seemingly superior foe, or forestalling mutiny, Aubrey — Lucky Jack, to his friends — seems to always make the right call.
It was not until I read the paper under review here, however, that I recognized what may be Lucky Jack’s greatest gift in the decisions department: Aubrey possesses an uncanny instinct for knowing when he can make a vital decision quickly, with little or no thought, and when he needs to proceed more deliberatively.
This question — to deliberate or not to deliberate — is explored is the study taken up this week, On Making the Right Choice:
The Deliberation-Without-Attention Effect. Our reviewers, psychologist Alex Haslam and economist George Loewenstein, offer decisive opinions about the paper’s strengths and weaknesses, and their deliberations illuminate both the possibilities and the difficulties of the fast-growing discipline of decision science. Whom you most agree with is something you’ll have to decide — once, that is, you’ve decided how much to think about it.