David Downs: Homo self-importantus, judges with the munchies and the political wasabi test

As part of my ‘deal’ with my manager, I’ve been doing a series of talks, sharing some of the things I learned while at Stanford, and as part of that came across a few choice facts worth sharing.

Really though, the point of this blog is to tell you all that since being back I have managed to get back to under my pre-Stanford weight. Phew – the last vestiges of the TexMex lunchtime buffets must now be gone from my system. Thanks for the memories, Raoul!

The effect of food is one of the interesting facts I heard at Stanford. It goes back to the fallacy we humans have about ourselves – particular we ‘sensible’ business folk (small aside; I sat on a plane recently next to a young woman from university or similar I’d guess, and at the start of the flight, she turned to me and asked ‘are you… are you an actual businessman? Wow’… like I was some sort of exotic creature. Homo self-importantus. Found commonly in meeting rooms and airports. Feed only during Koru hour.). Anyway – rather than admitting we are basically all just sacks of chemicals wrapped in skin walking around, most of us try to tell ourselves we are pure, rational beings who can separate our emotions and our humanity from our logical decisions.

Not so, of course, as was proven by a fascinating study done by one of the professors at Stanford. He studied Israeli Parole Judges – people who’s very job it is to make sensible decisions – and discovered an interesting (and disturbing) fact. There was a strong correlation between the judges likelihood to release (or continue to imprison) people, based on how recently the judge had eaten. At the beginning of a day, the judge, comfortable with a belly full of muesli, would be more likely to release people. As the morning progressed and the judges digestive system depleted all the honey nut crunch in her system, she’d start to get more hungry and restless, and she’d start to find decisions more difficult, and default to the ‘no decision’ option, to leave people in prison. Come lunchtime, the judge would re-charge with their salad of lamb and couscous (“so good they named it twice”) and after lunch, they’d resume, and again be more likely to release people. That is, until they started to get peckish mid-afternoon…  Now remember, this was a study of many judges, people whose pretty much sole job is to make good decisions, and their best efforts were thwarted by the munchies.  What hope do the rest of us have??

The two clear lessons from this:

  1. When making decisions, ensure you’re are physically well prepared, and
  2. If you ever find yourself in the dock, try to make it after a break, or slip the judge a couple of chocolate bikkies and hope for the best.

Another interesting food-related fact to finish – in a bet, one of the professors challenged another to predict a person’s likelihood to vote Democrat (more liberal) or Republican (more conservatively).  After experimentation, they discovered that there was such a question.  “Do you know wasabi?” was what they came up with. If you are sitting there scratching your head, or about to hit Google to find out what wasabi is, then good luck with getting Mr Trump into the White House…

Right – enough procrastination, better get back to being an actual businessman… once I’ve had the spicy apple muffin the flight attendant just gave me. I’d hate to make poor decisions, like eating a muffin I clearly know I shouldn’t.

Total Weight Change: About +0.02 kg since I started writing this article, thanks to that muffin.

Total Exercise: Not enough.