Introspection And Decision Making Start When We’re Young
March 17, 2013

Introspection And Decision Making Start When We’re Young

The University of California, Davis (UC Davis) has found that even very young children (down to three years of age), have the ability to ponder their decisions and understand when they are making a mistake. Accordingly, UC Davis professor of psychology, Simona Ghetti, and graduate student and assistant professor at Metropolitan State University in Denver, Colorado, Kristen Lyons conducted a study that found that children as young as three know when they are not sure about a decision and can also use that to guide their decision making.

Here is what Ghetti and Lyon did:

“Lyons and Ghetti showed 3-, 4- and 5-year-olds ambiguous drawings of objects and asked them to point to a particular object, such as a cup, a car or the sun. Then they asked the children to point to one of two pictures of faces, one looking confident and one doubtful, to rate whether they were confident or not confident about a decision.

In one of the tests, children had to choose a drawing even if unsure. In a second set of tests they had a “don’t want to pick” option.

Across the age range, children were more likely to say they were not confident about their decision when they had in fact made a wrong choice. When they had a “don’t know” option, they were most likely to take it if they had been unsure of their choice in the “either/or” test.”

Their study found that children could improve their overall accuracy by opting not to choose when uncertain. Furthermore, their study shows that children usually knew when they were wrong and could introspect on that doubt to find the right answer. This gives us a greater understanding of a child’s ability to think, reason, and introspect.

Adults often assume that because children are still developing, they cannot do everything adults can. This study shows that though they may still be learning how intuit and introspect, even very young children understand when they do not want to make a decision because they are unsure of themselves.

Obviously, children deserve more respect and credit than we often give them. Yes, they are still growing, developing, and learning, but that does not mean that they are incapable of certain cognitive and emotional actions.

Moreover, if we understand how children can introspect and make decisions, then perhaps we can find a better understanding on how and why adults do this as well. Decision making is hard for many adults especially those who do want confrontation or to impose on others. Perhaps if we better understand childhood uncertainty, then we can understand how to approach helping people as a whole with decision making.

I know that sometimes when I know that I’m not sure about some decision, no matter how paramount or miniscule, that I struggle internally with what to do. I am also slow to make major decisions. And if I truly do not care about the decision, then it is almost impossible for me to decide.

For instance, when I eat out with family or friends, I dread the “where do you want to eat” question. See, food is really more utilitarian for me. I can’t smell, so food is really more about energy as opposed to taste satisfaction. I usually do not care where we eat  (and when I do care, I pipe up), so I struggle with making this decision…always. When I make big life decisions (for instance, job related), I introspect on every aspect of the decision, which can take weeks. Now, once I make the decision, I am 100 percent committed to my choice, but it may take me a really long time.

Through introspection and reason, I usually am able to come to a decision about most things, even where to eat, but occasionally (yes, it’s rarely), I am so discomfited by the choices that even introspection can’t help me. In these moments, I wish I had a “don’t want to pick” option.

Image Credit: Dmitry Kalinovsky / Shutterstock

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Rayshell E. Clapper is an Associate Professor of English at a rural college in Oklahoma where she teaches Creative Writing, Literature, and Composition classes. She has presented her original fiction and non-fiction at several conferences and events including: Scissortail Creative Writing Festival, Howlers and Yawpers Creativity Symposium, Southwest/Texas Pop Culture Association/American Culture Association Regional Conference, and Pop Culture Association/American Culture Association National Conference. Her publications include Cybersoleil Journal, Sugar Mule Literary Magazine, Red Dirt Anthology, Originals, and Oklahoma English Journal. Beyond her written works, she successfully created a writer's group in rural Oklahoma to support burgeoning writers. The written word is her passion, and all she experiences inspires that passion. She hopes to help inspire others through her words.

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