We like to think that we are masters of our own destiny, but we are completely unaware of the various social cues involved in shaping our Decision Making on a daily basis. Until now it was widely believed that certain traits are entrenched within a personality, while others change based on various factors such as our age, social circle, profession and so on. A recent Study exposes these assumptions, and forces us to rethink our decision-making process.

What makes you tick

Jean Daunizeau is a member of the Brain and Spine Institute in Paris (ICM), and is also the lead author of the study published in the journal PLOS Computational Biology.

His study has proven that traits like prudence, laziness and impatience affect our decision-making and our ability to take risks, but these traits can also be easily influenced by the people around us.

In order to make his case, Jean Daunizeau recruited 56 individuals and put them through a test with three distinct phases. For the first phase, participants were asked to choose between a small payoff that happens immediately, and the large payoff that happens in three months.

For the second phase, participants were asked to guess another person's decisions on a similar task, and once the participants made the guess, they were told about the actual choice the person had made. In reality, the hypothetical person was actually just a computerized model that provided random answers to the participants.

What was being studied was not the answers of the computer, but whether they had any effect on the participants.

During the third and final phase, participants were once again made to choose between the options presented to them during the first phase. Surely enough a lot of participants decided to change their final decision based on the information they received from the random computerized model.

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This proves that our decisions are not entirely our own and can vary based on the information we receive from the social structures around us.

Implications of study

A lot of researchers believe that behavioural patterns related to prudence, laziness and impatience are generally connected to a person's genetics. This study clearly shows us the effect of environmental influences and social influences in a person's decision- making, especially in the area of taking risks.

We might need to think about these contagious traits and factor them in whenever we decide to make our next big decision. Unbeknownst to us, our minds might have picked up on social cues from the people around us that go on to have a massive impact in our lives. Its best to take full control by realizing that we are not in control.