There’s one disagreement my partner and I have consistently, and it starts with the question, “What do you want for dinner?” It evolves into a very non-serious argument about why I can’t make decisions, and it usually ends with me realizing that, hey, he didn’t make a decision either. He just passed it off to me! (I know, how rude.)
Brian Christian and Tom Griffiths, co-authors of the book “Algorithms to Live By: The Computer Science of Human Decisions,” refer to this as “passing the computational buck.” Instead of asking me the open-ended question of what I want to eat, my partner should ask me something more along the lines of, “Do you want to eat grilled cheese or lettuce wraps?” (The answer is always—always—grilled cheese.)
This applies to other situations, too, such as when you’re trying to schedule meetings with a co-worker. Rather than asking them to provide all the times he’s free, you should just present him with a few specific options.
In this episode, “6 Algorithms That Can Improve Your Life,” of the Note to Self podcast, the host talks about this algorithm and five others that can help make your life so, so, much better.
Photo of friends courtesy of Katarina Premfors/Getty Images.
Abby works in health education and prevention at a university in Washington, DC. When she’s not trying to make the world a healthier place, you can find her taking selfies with her cat (Mildred Meow Meow), hunting down the city's best grilled cheese, or zipping through the city on her bike, named Libby. Say hi on Twitter.More from this Author