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How Your Quick Decisions Can Change Your Life

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Image by Tumisu from Pixabay

Colin Lowther and Liz Waid look at the quick decisions we make, without thinking. These decisions affect our lives more than we know.

Voice 1 

Welcome to Spotlight. I’m Colin Lowther.

Voice 2 

And I’m Liz Waid. Spotlight uses a special method of broadcasting. It is easier for people to understand no matter where in the world they live.

Click here to follow along with this program on YouTube.
Voice 1 

Most people have experienced an immediate reaction. Think about the last time you smelled something delicious. Did you react with an emotion? Have you had a reaction to a beautiful piece of art? Did you react emotionally when you saw someone you loved?

Voice 2 

Malcolm Gladwell is a writer. He writes about how our brains are influenced by things we do not even know. Gladwell calls these immediate reactions we just thought about snap judgements, or quick decisions. They often influence us in ways we may not even recognize. Today’s Spotlight is on these immediate reactions and how they affect our everyday lives.

Voice 1 

Here is a fun example of how our brains create these immediate reactions. Answer these questions as quickly as possible.

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What color are clouds? What color is snow? What do cows drink?

cow looking at the camera
What does this cow drink?; Image by Wolfgang Claussen from Pixabay
Voice 1 

Most people answer the first two questions with “white”. But they answer the third question with the word “milk”. If you answered that cows drink milk, you are not alone. The correct answer is water. It was the color white that made you have a snap decision that cows drink milk.

Voice 2 

Malcolm Gladwell wrote a book about snap judgements called “Blink”. In this book, he tells a story about a snap decision. In 1983, the J. Paul Getty Museum received a statue. They believed it was from the sixth century B.C. Scientists at the museum did some basic tests to make sure the statue was real. The tests seemed to show that the statue was very old.

Voice 1 

Thomas Hoving is an art manager. He looked at the statue. Hoving always remembers the first word to come into his mind when he looks at a new piece of work. Normally, when Hoving sees an old, large marble statue, his first word is “old”, “beautiful”, “ancient”, or even “heavy”. Hoving has been around art for many years. His experience makes it easier for him to choose between real art and copies of real art. And when he looked at the statue, the first word he thought of was “fresh”. His snap judgement made him think the statue was not thousands of years old. It was new.

Voice 2 

Scientists decided to do more tests. These further test results showed that the statue was not real. It was a very good copy of a real statue. The person who made the statue worked hard to make the statue seem old. The museum was not happy when they learned they would not be able to put this statue in their museum. But this snap decision saved the museum from years of shame and regret.

The Kouros Statue at the Getty Museum; This photograph has been cropped.
The Kouros Statue at the Getty Museum; This photograph has been cropped; Rbw48, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons
Voice 1 

This is just one example of the effects of snap judgements or quick decisions. Snap judgements can also help improve – or even save – our lives.

Voice 2 

Imagine you are walking down a street on a sidewalk. You are thinking about something that is very interesting. You are not thinking about walking down the street. You decide to turn right. You do not see that you have just stepped out on to a busy street. You look up and see that there is a car driving toward you. Without thinking, you jump back up on to the sidewalk. You do this to avoid being hit. It was your own quick decision to jump back, away from the street, that saved you from being hurt.

Voice 1 

In an emergency, quick decisions also help. For example, doctors use snap judgements to treat injuries. They react based on past experiences. These past experiences help doctors know, without thinking, what they must do. If doctors take too long to make a decision, it can be too late to save a person’s life. Their quick thinking can help keep everyone safe.

Voice 2 

Gladwell says that people make quick decisions because they must. Sometimes people must make quick decisions to survive. Other times, people make them because it is natural. Our past experiences help to form our decisions. This is what helps to make them natural. Snap judgements come from the unconscious part of our brain. So, we do not know we are making snap judgements until after we make them. We often do this when we meet people.

Photo by Tima Miroshnichenko from Pexels
Voice 1 

There is a common saying in the English language: “Do not judge a book by its cover”. This means that we should not make an opinion about something or somebody based on the way they look. But people do this every single day. And, sadly, these snap judgements can easily be wrong.

Voice 2 

Snap judgements come from experience. But our experiences of people can be limited. Many of us do not know people of a different ethnicity or race. We mostly know people who are like us. So, when we see someone who looks different, our snap judgements are not based on experience. They are based on ideas from other people. Or they are based on stories in radio and television. These are prejudices. And snap judgements based on prejudice are often wrong. Often, a person’s appearance does not tell us much about who they are or what they are like.

Voice 1 

It is natural to make snap judgements about other people. However, these judgements are not always true. For example, imagine that you see a person with a different skin color than yours. You may have a thought like “I am smarter than he is” or “He is mean”. These are not good snap judgements. Thoughts like these are judgements about a person’s character and abilities.

Voice 2 

Sometimes, we need to make a quick decision about a person to protect our own lives. If we see someone carrying a weapon, it would be right to make the snap judgement to hide or run away.

Voice 1 

People make snap judgements every single day. But we can decide how we let the snap judgements affect our lives. It is important to be careful not to let these quick decisions change the way we think of a person. Think of how your snap judgements affect your everyday life. You could surprise yourself.

Voice 2 

We will tell another story about snap judgements for members of our YouTube channel. Members get access to exclusive videos, PDFs of scripts, and can join our private Spotlight English Facebook group. We hope you make a snap judgement to check it out! If you are on YouTube, click Join below.

Click here to learn more about becoming a YouTube member

Voice 1 

What kinds of snap judgements do you make? Have you ever regretted a quick decision? Tell us what you think. You can leave a comment on our website. Or email us at contact@spotlightenglish.com. You can also find us on Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, and Twitter.

Voice 2 

The writer of today’s program was Erin Layman. The producer was Liz Waid. The voices you heard were from the United Kingdom and the United States. You can listen to this program again, and read it, on the internet at www.spotlightenglish.com. This program is called “How Your Quick Decisions Can Change Your Life”.

Voice 1 

Visit our website to download our free official app for Android and Apple devices. We hope you can join us again for the next Spotlight program. Goodbye!

Question:

What kinds of snap judgments, or quick decisions, do you make? Do you usually trust your quick decisions?

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