By on September 26, 2011

Are car buyers rational? Anyone who deals with car-shopping consumers on a regular basis would probably answer with a hearty “no.” In fact in my experience, helping prospective car buyers navigate the many considerations and options available on the market usually ends with me throwing up my hands and saying “if you like a car, just buy it.” But according to research cited by Wired’s Jonah Lehrer, conscious reasoning might not be the ideal way to shop for a car in the first place. Sometimes “going with the gut,” and making a decision without thinking it through is the best way to solve complex choices like finding the car that’s perfect for you.

The fundamental characteristic of car shopping, complexity, is a problem consumers face throughout their lives. With over 30 automotive brands on sale in the US, consciously working your way through even the most basic level of differentiation is no mean feat… and it gets tougher from there. Each brand has between one and 20 models, and each model has a seemingly infinite choice of drivetrains, trim levels, option packs and accessories. In short, navigating the new car market alone in a methodical, rational way is a task of nearly unimaginable complexity and tedium. Add the used market, the locations of sales and service centers, and try to match that all up with your own complex matrix of needs and wants, and it’s amazing that anyone considers car-buying a remotely rational process. And, according to research published in a 2006 paper by Ap Dijksterhuis, this is all the more reason to not even try to take on the challenge consciously.

Lehrer describes the Dijksterhuis experiment:

Dijksterhuis got together a group of Dutch car shoppers and gave them descriptions of four different used cars. Each of the cars was rated in four different categories, for a total of sixteen pieces of information. Car number 1, for example, was described as getting good mileage, but had a shoddy transmission and poor sound system. Car number 2 handled poorly, but had lots of legroom. Dijksterhuis designed the experiment so that one car was objectively ideal, with “predominantly positive aspects”. After showing people these car ratings, Dijksterhuis then gave them a few minutes to consciously contemplate their decision. In this “easy” situation, more than fifty percent of the subjects ended up choosing the best car.

Dijksterhuis then showed a separate group of people the same car ratings. This time, however, he didn’t let them consciously think about their decision. After he gave them the automotive facts, he distracted them with some simple word games for a few minutes. He then interrupted their fun and asked the subjects, rather suddenly, to choose a car. Dijksterhuis designed the experiment so that these people would be forced to make a decision using their unconscious brain. (Their conscious attention had been focused on solving the word puzzle.) The end result was that they made significantly worse choices than those who were allowed to consciously think about the cars.

Wait, so reason works… right? Well, yes, as long as the decision is suitably simple. After all, 16 pieces of information is not wildly complex. In fact, compared to real-world car-shopping, that’s fill-in-the-lines easy.

But Dijksterhuis was just getting warmed up. He then repeated the experiment, only this time he rated each car in twelve different categories. (These “hard” conditions more closely approximate the confusing reality of car shopping, in which consumers are overwhelmed with facts and figures.) In addition to learning about the quality of the transmission and the engine’s gas mileage, people were told about the number of cupholders, the size of the trunk, and so on. Their brain had to deal with forty-eight separate pieces of information.

Did conscious deliberation still lead to the best decision? Dijksterhuis found that people given time to think in a rational manner – they could carefully contemplate each alternative – now chose the ideal car less than 25 percent of the time. In other words, they performed worse than random chance. However, subjects who were distracted for a few minutes found the best car nearly 60 percent of the time. (Similar results were achieved with Ikea shoppers, looking for a leather couch.) They were able to sift through the clutter of automotive facts and find the ideal alternative. Dijksterhuis summarized the implications of the data:

The moral of this research is clear…Use your conscious mind to acquire all the information you need for making a decision. But don’t try to analyze the information with your conscious mind. Instead, go on holiday while your unconscious mind digests it. Whatever your intuition then tells you is almost certainly going to be the best choice.

Fascinating to be sure… but why are we talking about research from 2006? Well, it turns out that a new Cornell study replicated the Dijksterhuis experiment, with an even more provocative angle: separating detail analysis and feeling analysis.

The scientists began with a straightforward replication of the Dijksterhuis car paradigm. Instead of distracting subjects, however, they randomly divided students into a “feeling-focus” group and a “detail-focus” group. The group focused on their feelings were told to reflect on how the various car alternatives made them feel – did they like a large trunk? – while those focused on details were told to remember the various automotive attributes. The assumption is that focusing on feelings leads people to rely on the output of their unconscious, while focusing on details leads to a more deliberate mode of thought.

Once again, the “detail-focused” group excelled at making simple decisions. Thinking in a rational manner made them nearly 20 percent more effective at identifying the best car alternative when there were only sixteen total pieces of information. However, those focused on feelings proved far better at finding the best car in the complex condition. While deliberate thinkers barely beat random chance, those listening to their feelings identified the ideal option nearly 70 percent of the time. Similar results were found when the volunteers were quizzed about subjective choice quality, as those relying on their emotions tended to be much more satisfied with their car selection. In a final pair of experiments, the researchers demonstrated that the advantages of emotional decision-making could be undone by a subsequent bout of deliberation, which suggests that we shouldn’t doubt a particularly strong instinct, at least when the considering lots of information.

Not only is rational thought a “cognitive bottleneck,” but it can actually distract from an intuitive understanding of a complex situation. And though car buying is a perfect test for these kinds of inquiries into cognitive processes, this anti-logic logic holds true for other complex choices. I would submit that this science even goes some way towards proving how a “go-with-the-gut” guy like Bob Lutz can thrive in such a complex and (allegedly) rationalized industry. After all, Lutz’s greatest complaint about his fellow GM execs was that they were forever “overthinking” problems, rather than instinctively allowing the optimal solution to simply occur in their subconscious.

The upshot? The next time someone asks you for advice about which car to buy, tell them to go with whatever feels right. If anything, the key is helping them understand what their needs are. Once they know what they need in an abstract sense (and have a sense of which makes and brands offer which attributes), it’s only a matter of time before their subconscious tells them which car to buy. At that point, it’s time to step back. Logic and reason has done everything it can.

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39 Comments on “What Car Buying Can Teach Us About Consciousness (And Vice Versa)...”


  • avatar
    MarkP

    In reality, almost no one starts out with every available vehicle as a possible choice. They almost always select a category (minivan, sedan, sports car, SUV, whatever) and then choose from within that category. That significantly reduces the mental clutter. And I suspect that if people take significantly longer to make a decision, that decision will usually lead to the “correct” choice (whatever in hell that means).

    But I challenge these researchers to define accurately the difference in mental process between “conscious” and “subconscious.” That little distinction has been eluding researchers for a long time.

  • avatar
    Secret Hi5

    I think that ‘experts’ too often ignore the emotional component of car-buying. I’m an advocate of buying a car that appeals to you for non-objective reasons, provided that you are accepting of its shortcomings. So what if that car is 10% less reliable? Or has 2 fewer MPGs? Or is slower to 60 by 0.7 seconds?

  • avatar
    rpol35

    I think it is “Vice” Versa.

  • avatar
    dwford

    The over-analyzers amuse me. They come in with their clipboards, their print outs, even their tape measures, trying boil down car shopping to a spread sheet. They try so hard to remove the emotion from the shopping experience. The ones that irritate me the most are the customers solely focused on the monthly payment. They invariably end up buying the worst car on their list, just because it is the cheapest. Nevermind that they deep down hate the way it looks and drives. You can’t drive the payment book.

  • avatar

    Put another way, even in the best scenario about one-third picked the wrong car.

    We seem to be missing some critical details that might explain how the people relying on their subconscious did much better when given far more criteria to sort through.

    Most importantly, it’s not necessarily either/or.

  • avatar
    Pch101

    Instead of distracting subjects, however, they randomly divided students into a “feeling-focus” group and a “detail-focus” group. The group focused on their feelings were told to reflect on how the various car alternatives made them feel – did they like a large trunk? – while those focused on details were told to remember the various automotive attributes.

    If I understand this, the study is based upon a false premise that the researcher is capable of choosing a “best” option and that it is the job of the research subjects to agree with the researcher as to what is best. It’s the equivalent of the mouse finding the cheese at the end of the maze.

    Except in this case, there isn’t much in the way of objective cheese that allows one to assume that one set of preferences is inherently better than the other. “Liking a large trunk” sounds like a product preference, not a “feelings”-based choice. For example, one who needs to haul a lot of goods would be making a perfectly rational choice by focusing on cargo space.

    I would submit that this science even goes some way towards proving how a “go-with-the-gut” guy like Bob Lutz can thrive in such a complex and (allegedly) rationalized industry.

    I would say that both groups are flawed. On one hand, you have the GM committee types who are afraid to make a bad decision to the point that they hide behind group consensus and paralysis-in-the-analysis in order to avoid accountability or a focus on the customer. On the other hand, you have Lutz making substantial mistakes, for which he proceeds to blame the customer instead of taking personal responsibility.

    Neither quality is good. Moreover, Lutz and the committee types aren’t very different from each other — both are trying to avoid having mistakes being pinned on themselves. At the end of the day, it’s all about passing the buck to someone else and applying as much Teflon onto one’s own reputation as possible. I’d fire the bureaucrats for being indecisive, and Lutz for making consistently bad decisions without apology.

    • 0 avatar
      APaGttH

      and Lutz for making consistently bad decisions without apology.

      Ya, that whole 3-series thing was a really bad idea, along with the Ford Sierra, the original Ford Explorer, GM Epsilon platform, GM Zeta platform and the Gen II Cadillac CTS. Yup – consistent bad decisions on his part. Those Chrysler LH cars that came from his brain were a total disaster too.

      What would Chrysler look like today if Lutz was given the reigns in ’92 instead of Eaton?

      Has Lutz made mistakes? Yup. Some huge ones. Risk takers make mistakes. Risk takers also have huge wins, and I think Lutz has more “W” in his column than “L”

      • 0 avatar
        michal1980

        gm went under, and is only around because the government bailed them out.

        So whats Lutz win that trumps that?

      • 0 avatar
        APaGttH

        And that is Lutz’s fault how? He is somehow responsible for UAW deals signed from the 1960′s until bankruptcy? He’s responsible for the Iron Duke? A-bodies? W-bodies? U-bodies, J-bodies, T-bodies? How about the gutting of the Fiero? The neutering of Pontiac? The badge engineering of the 80′s and 90′s between Buick, Chevrolet and Oldsmobile? The Cadillac Cimmaron? Craptastic product quality for 3-1/2 decades plus? The tapping of pension funds to pay the bills? Design disasters like the Aztek? The killing of Saturn by destroying its whole reason for existing?

        That’s all Lutz’s fault??? While GM was building A-body, W-body, and U-body pieces of crap, Lutz was hitting home runs at Chrysler.

        Let me put it to you in a sports analogy.

        If you lose the baseball game 19 – 7, you don’t blame the reliever that takes the mound in the 8th when the score is 17 – 6 and there are runners at the corners with one out.

      • 0 avatar
        Pch101

        Ya, that whole 3-series thing was a really bad idea

        Well done. You want to give Lutz credit for a car that he didn’t conceive, design and engineer.

        Risk takers make mistakes.

        Risk takers make some mistakes. Blowhards make more than their share and then never take responsibility for them.

        He is somehow responsible for UAW deals signed from the 1960′s until bankruptcy?

        You GM fans need to learn about the company that you adore. GM’s problems were deficient product, deficient product and deficient product, mixed into a bad cocktail of inept management and obsolete branding.

        It’s the excuse makers of Detroit that put the bullet into the American auto industry. Suicide by committee.

      • 0 avatar
        ajla

        Lutz did work at GM Europe from ’63 to ’71, but I don’t know what power he really enjoyed at the time.

        The killing of Saturn by destroying its whole reason for existing?

        Lutz actually had a decent role in that. He was a major proponent of using global platforms/engineering and a unique Saturn did not mesh with that.

        He certainly had it within his power at GM to do a major re-investment in Saturn, and the brand was hardly dead during the early part of his tenure, but he instead decided to makeover the lineup with reskins, sports cars, and captive imports.

      • 0 avatar
        jmo

        Pch,

        Wasn’t the product weak because the money they could have spent on engineering and high quality interiors was spent on lavish inion health benefit. Bad management was a huge problem, but the products did suck, in no small measure, due to ridiculously high costs.

      • 0 avatar
        CJinSD

        The first 3 series was really just an evolution of the 1600-2/2002 concept and market position with better ventilation and inferior suspension. The Sierra was never as successful as the Cortina/Taunus it replaced. It turned out to be a baby step between the Cortina’s sales leader position and the Mondeo’s borderline irrelevance today. That its name died with its generation is telling.

      • 0 avatar
        Pch101

        Wasn’t the product weak because the money they could have spent on engineering and high quality interiors was spent on lavish inion health benefit.

        No, it wasn’t. GM hasn’t been an “engineering company” ever since Sloan replaced Durant.

        Sloan’s approach for turning GM around and passing Ford was to focus on features, style, horsepower and branding. Sloan faulted Durant’s focus on engineering innovation for almost destroying the company, and he wanted to avoid a repeat.

        Sloan specifically argued against prioritizing engineering for the American market, in the belief that Americans didn’t want it or were willing to pay for it.

        This had nothing to do with the cost of labor. GM’s lack of engineering prowess was a cultural value that came straight from the top. Nimble handling and subtlety were left to the Europeans. In GM’s view, Americans wanted color choices, air conditioning, automatic transmissions, tail fins and torque; the arrogant old culture missed how much that the Europeans and Japanese had contributed to a change in tastes that made the old GM approach obsolete.

  • avatar
    APaGttH

    I’ve done it both ways.

    Bought my Porsche 944 S2, Chevy Avalanche, and Pontiac G8 on pure 100% emotion through the years. Bought my Ford Tempo, Subaru Legacy, Chevy S-10 pickup, and Pontiac Grand Prix through harsh, scientific evaluation that included facts and figures, along with my own perceptions of comfort/need etc. etc.

    I’ve bought a number of other vehicles through a combination of gut and research (and researching today is vastly easier than it was 1990).

    I really can’t say if any of them were good or bad choices. The Tempo never had a chance, got its ass end ripped off at just 17 months of ownership. The Legacy was a steaming pile of crap. Loved the Porsche, hated the routine care. The Avalanche proved to be reliable, incredibly versatile and the ultimate urban assault vehicle, that could eek out 15 MPG on a good week.

    Ehhhh, what ever works for you. No matter what you buy and how good of a deal you got, you’ll always meet someone two months later who knows a guy who has a sister with the exact same car as you, and they got a better deal. You can buy the most reliable car according to every publication on the planet, and still end up with a lemon. Likewise you could buy a Range Rover (at least in theory) and be the person who drove it for 200K miles and never had a problem.

    I think if you’re happy with what you buy – that is what is most important. Reliable and fun service is just bonus points. Good resale value at the end of the line is the cherry on the top.

  • avatar
    bikegoesbaa

    Unless the other options were described as being in poor shape or otherwise compromised, I don’t agree with the way the researchers are identifying the “best” option.

    I recently bought a new car. My nonnegotiable criteria were a manual transmission, longitudinal crank, and wagon/hatch body style because I knew that I wouldn’t be happy with any car that didn’t meet these criteria regardless of its other merits.

    I am certain that there are probably other models on the market that would have been objectively “better” in terms of running cost, features, purchase price, resale, interior volume, etc.

    However, these models would not have actually been “better” for me, because I would not have been happy with them.

    The researchers would likely conclude that I made a suboptimal choice and was therefore wrong. In reality, I’m very happy with my choice, and don’t care if I could have gotten 1.8 inches more legroom or 3 more mpg by picking a similar car that I didn’t like as much.

    To pick an extreme example – is a Silverado “better” than a Miata? Depends what you want to do with it.

  • avatar
    BMWfan

    Too many choices can lead to analysis paralysis, which is never a good thing. I agree with the “go with your gut” theory. whenever I bought a car using rational analysis, I ended up driving a refrigerator. Great for the bottom line, but not so good for the psyche. I used to offer advice to friends as to what kind of car to buy, because they knew I liked to crunch the numbers, and could usually select the right kind of car for their needs. I no longer offer this “service” because the downsides for me were many, and there was absolutely no upside. I have found that that one of the advantages of getting older is to just do what makes you happy. Always making rational choices leads to very unhappy and dull life from what I can see.

    • 0 avatar
      Russycle

      Agreed. Number crunching and analysis are great for winnowing the multitude of choices, after that the best choice is “What do I like best?” Unless it’s insanely expensive.

    • 0 avatar
      vent-L-8

      As a BMW fan I can assume you are bothered by the ever-growing and confusing model range. I know I am.

      • 0 avatar
        BMWfan

        @ vent-L-8

        I am. You could call me just a fan of the slightly older BMW lineup. I will probably keep my E46 until I can’t keep it running anymore. The new cars are nice, but they are not for me. It has become more about the Roundel than it has about the driving dynamics. I don’t like the trend towards turbos, and 4 cylinder engines. Run flat tires and the lack of a dipstick have really turned me off, and I don’t see myself buying one of their newer models anytime soon. I understand the desire to appeal to a larger market, but I guess I am no longer in their demographic. If I lived in Europe, and could use the cars full capabilities, it would probably be a different story. I don’t know if I’m getting any wiser, but I sure am getting older!

    • 0 avatar

      My only bad purchase was the most gut driven one. In ’93, I should have bought an Integer instead of a Saturn. I was considering both, and although I don’t think I realized it at the time, I bought the Saturn over the Integer because I loved the look of the car. I wanted good handling, good reliability, and good fuel economy. The Integer had a long track record of very good reliability; Consumer Reports had just come out saying that Saturn looked like it was going to be a highly reliable car. If you ignore the engine oil use problem, it didn’t get bad until it had 130k-plus, and then it was a big repair every two months. But the engine was a POS. I did manage to get a new one installed for only $700 (TSB) at 65k, but that engine, while better than the first one, was not great.

  • avatar
    Philosophil

    The idea of ‘unconscious’ or subconscious’ processes contributing to problem solving is not new. There are numerous examples of people making discoveries or arriving at solutions to problems after ‘sleeping on it a while.’ In fact, there are quite famous examples of people arriving at solutions to complex problems in their dreams (or when awakening from sleep).

    As a general rule, most people overestimate their own conscious rational capacities quite significantly and there are plenty of tests in logic and other fields that show this time and again. Still, while subconscious processes no doubt make significant contributions to cognitive processes and judgments, this is not to deny conscious deliberation its own role in directing, guiding and in some cases overriding subconscious processes. Further, conscious reasoning can also be refined and improved with practice.

  • avatar
    Robert Schwartz

    I don’t think it is all that hard. I first figure out what kind of car I want, i.e. category. Then I compare the cars in that category via the internet (in the old days I used publications). Then car shows, and the showrooms and test drives. Once I figure out what I want, back to the internet to study. The I solicit bids via e-mail.

    Yes, there are spreadsheets. I don’t go into a dealer without a spreadsheet, a note pad, and a calculator. I have bought cars that I like, at prices I think are reasonable.

    • 0 avatar
      redav

      A technique I use is to first decide what matters to me–and ignore the superfluous details. Most of the info on cars’ datasheets is of no real importance. You don’t need those twelve pieces of data used in the study, so just throw them out. In so doing, you simplify the problem.

      Also, another strategy is to scrap the measurement method and go to a pass/fail system. For example, what do you need to fit in the trunk? If the trunk will hold it, it passes, if not, it fails, and that car is eliminated from any further consideration. A 20% larger trunk doesn’t win any additional points.

      What happens is that typically only a few makes/models are left, and then, since each one is satisfactory based on your requirements, any of those would be the ‘right’ choice. At that point, go with the one that makes you feel the best & the most excited.

      So, to summarize, if complexity is the problem, get rid of it–make the problem simple instead of trying to solve the complex one.

  • avatar
    DC Bruce

    This entire analysis seems to reflect the author of the study forcing people to do what I would call an “inside out” analysis, which is pretty unnatural. First off, to state the obvious, there is no one car which best suits everyone’s needs. If there were, someone would have built it and then everyone else would just compete on price — kind of like what’s happened to the Microsoft-based PC industry.

    As some other commenter hinted at, the way to work this problem — and the way most people approach it is to first figure out what you want . . . and then proceed from there. The initial “clipboard” analysis would be to simply exclude candidates that are outside of the “want list,” e.g. too expensive, too big, too small, too thirsty and so on.

    After you’ve done that, then you have the choice between making a spreadsheet describing the characteristics of the remaining candidates with the goal of rationally choosing what best meets your needs . . . or “going with your gut” after you see and drive the candidates.

    “Going with your gut” is probably the most successful strategy, not because of the power of some Jungian subconscious but because your decision is also going to be how you weight the factors, and it is just fallacious to attempt to assign a numerical value to how you weight, say, two inches more legroom in the rear seat. Much better to sit in the back seat of the vehicles and just let yourself say (“this is too tight” or “this is o.k.”) And, ultimately, if you drive the vehicles, you will automatically select the characteristic that is most important to you.

    For instance, our last new car purchase (for my wife to drive) was an SUV (she always thought our Saab wagon was “too small”). After driving the Enclave (“too big”) and sitting in the Mazda CX-9 (reacted negatively to the plasticky interior; didn’t want to drive), we were down to the newly upsized Highlander V-6 and the Honda Pilot, scheduled for a re-make. The Pilot had the nicer interior and much better seats (comparing the topline versions of each), but the Highlander had the better engine (its additional power was obvious) and less ponderous handling. But my wife thought the Pilot’s driving characteristics “good enough” and went for the nicer interior and better seats. If I were the buyer, I probably would have gone the other way. I still hate driving the Pilot.

    But I think this study was based on a wholly artificial setting, not relevant to how people function in the real world, so I would not put much stock in its conclusions regardless of what they are.

  • avatar
    Steven Lang

    Most people buy with their eyes…

    As for this quote…

    “Not only is rational thought a “cognitive bottleneck,” but it can actually distract from an intuitive understanding of a complex situation. And though car buying is a perfect test for these kinds of inquiries into cognitive processes, this anti-logic logic holds true for other complex choices.”

    A primary thought in virtually every Stark Trek episode that featured the talents of Kirk and Spock.

  • avatar
    mopar4wd

    There has been several meetings at my work(insurance) lately about these and similar studies. It seems many industries are attempting to use these to change their marketing and customer service philosophy. Basically the take away that fortune 500 companies have is that we don’t need to be the best choice if we make the customer happy and emotionally attached to us. Example: if a customer is comfortable with your service and likes your logo he will ignore the better offer from your competitor.

  • avatar
    ClutchCarGo

    I saw this in Wired and I still have the same basic question: what was it about one of the car choices that made it the “ideal car”? Were there a set of objectives that the car choice should meet? If not, how can they determine that some subjects made the correct choice and some didn’t? The correct choice for me is not the same correct choice for Sajeev, Baruth or Ed.

    • 0 avatar
      CC_Stadt

      From the description above it sounds to me as though the “ideal car” was identified in the experiment with more positive (or fewer negative) attributes than the three other cars OVERALL. They appear to imply that most buyers would make such an overall comparison and try to maximize the positives.

      This approach clearly falls down if I focus on one particular aspect which would make or break any purchase for me, regardless of all other aspects. But perhaps that is not the M.O. of most car buyers.

  • avatar

    When friends ask me what to buy, I always ask them what they want out of a car. (The most important characteristics for most of them are probably would you would expect from the typical NPR listener.)

    But for me, a car is a relatively simple purchase. It should be fun to drive,including a clutch, reliable, big enough to transport my office to the Cape or to my sister’s in Virginia (we’re not talking much space, but I’m not sure a Miata would do the job), and it should be reasonably economical. I don’t care about cupholders, the details of what the inside looks like. So I narrow it down to a handful of cars, and drive them, and that’s where my gut comes in. It’s really not such a complex choice.

    the kind of choice I hate having to make, where I do’nt really think absorbing some facts and then leaving it to my unconscious would do the job, is buying electronics–a gps, a computer, or a camera. The number of features I have to worry about is as staggering as the whole process is boring. I really hate having to make any of those purchases.

  • avatar
    Robbie

    Often a car buying decision that is emotionally right for the buyer results in the buyer being happy longer with the vehicle, thereby avoiding an expensive early trade in.

  • avatar
    John Horner

    A very insightful analysis of the dilemma many face in modern society is Barry Schwartz’ book “The Paradox of Choice: Why More Is Less”.

    He draws an interesting distinction between “Satisficers” and “Maximizers” in their choosing behavior. A Satisficer has a set of criteria for a purchase, and once they find something which meets that criteria, buys it. The Maximizers tries valiantly to make the absolute best possible decision, and easily ends up overwhelmed and frustrated … and often ends up regretting their choice once they finally do make it. Because, after all, there might have been an even better option!

    As far as Dijksterhuis’ work goes, I suspect that the brain’s inherent massively parallel capabilities are better used in non-verbalized thought processes than they are in a verbalized thought process. All rational/analytical thought takes place in a linear talking-to-oneself verbal process. The words are not typically spoken aloud, but we are still restricting to a one-thought-in-front-of-the-other process when verbal/analytical processes are in use. On the other hand, just letting the information cook and waiting for the output of the non-verbalize-able process may be what we mean when we reach conclusions based on “our gut” or “feelings”.

  • avatar
    V-Strom rider

    Read “Blink” by Malcolm Gladwell for an explanation of why snap judgemnets are often better than the ones we make when we over-analyse. Essentially, our sub-conscious mind does a better job of focussing on the critical bits of data and ignoring the extraneous stuff than our conscious mind does.

    • 0 avatar
      BMWfan

      I found what you say to be true back in my school days. While testing, my first choice was usually the right choice, although I honestly could not say how or why I arrived at that decision. I usually got into trouble when I second guessed myself, and went back and changed an earlier answer. The majority of the posters on this site always stimulate my thought process, and I am thankful that I have found a place to interact with like minded, intelligent individuals.

  • avatar
    Madroc

    When I was prepping for the LSAT (multiple-choice standardized test) I used software that tracked all sorts of data. One of the things I learned, that came as no surprise to me, was that on the rare occasion that I changed an answer after I entered it I “corrected” an answer that was already right about half the time.

    As far as cars (and most consumer goods) go, the point at which information has diminishing marginal value sets in pretty early. One more review will not give you any useful additional information, so look at the objective stuff, draw your own subjective conclusions, and trust your judgment. But some people have to drag it out anyway.

  • avatar

    Great article.

    I’ve lost count of the 100+ message email threads my friends have had with each other on GMAIL over “what car should I buy?”.

    I think that the best approach is one of balance. One of the biggest financial mistakes a person can make is buying the wrong car. If we went 100% with our gut, we’d have Nascar Dads buying impractical Corvettes (for example).

    Basically, figure out what you can afford and then drive what you like in that range. Then pick the one that gives you the most pleasure and meets the mid-bound of your needs (therefore- you do not need a full-cab pick-up if 99% of your trips are solo and you tow a boat twice a year.)

  • avatar
    rpn453

    “Just think about it deeply, then forget it. Then, an idea will jump up in your face.”

    -Don Draper


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