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Why You Should Trade Split Decisions for “Flip Decisions”

Use Flipism to make in-the-moment choices.


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Jordan Gross

3 years ago | 3 min read

In their book The Leading Brain: Neuroscience Hacks to Work Smarter, Better, and Happier, Friederike Fabritis and Hans Hagemannthat describe flipping a coin as a powerful way to make decisions. But not in the way we’d normally expect.

Usually, we have two options. Option A is heads and Option B is tails. We flip the coin, and whichever side the coin lands on, we go with that option.

But this is not the ideal way to make decisions. There is a better, more intuitive way and it’s more reflective of what the brain actually wants. In his article at Inc.com, Jeff Haden writes:

“If you’re torn between two choices of seemingly equal merit, flip a coin. If you’re satisfied or relieved by the decision the coin made for you, then go with it.

On the other hand, if the result of the coin toss leaves you uneasy and even makes you wonder why you used a coin toss to decide such an important decision in the first place, then go with the other choice instead. Your ‘gut feeling’ alerted you to the ‘right’ decision.”

A study from researchers in Switzerland documented a similar process. They told participants that one side of the coin would allow them to take a job at a more prestigious firm with higher pay and longer hours, and the other side would be at a less prestigious firm with lower pay and more flexible hours.

The coin was then flipped into the air, but it was never revealed which side it landed on. Research participants were asked to decide which choice their subconscious brain wanted more while the coin was in the air. This choice revealed their underlying desire.

While the flipping of the coin acted as the catalyst for decision making in this study, a second study was performed. In it, researchers suggested participants go for specific choices in a restaurant menu.

It was clear that when certain menu items were suggested to participants, they formed stronger opinions about what they wanted. Their final decisions either leaned toward or strongly away from the recommended item.

Whether or not people followed the recommendation didn’t matter. What mattered was the fact that people became much more decisive.

This phenomenon is known as Flipism. Psynso describes Flipism as:

“[a] pseudophilosophy under which all decisions are made by flipping a coin. It originally appeared in the Disney comic “Flip Decision” by Carl Barks, published in 1953. Barks called a practitioner of “Flipism” a “Flippist.” Flipism can be seen as a normative decision theory, although it does not fulfil the criteria of rationality.”

Flipism should probably be taken with a grain of salt. However, when making split decisions or acting in the moment, it can be a really powerful tool.

In a piece about in-the-moment decision making, Neil Patel highlights the positive results he’s had using his instinct, and how those results compound when he became more and more confident in his gut. In fact, studies show that “the more you pay attention to the outcome of trusting your intuition in combination with facts, the better your future decision-making can become.”

The name “split decisions” simply reveals the conflict you face in those moments when you need to take them. The name doesn’t offer any solutions. “Flip decisions,” however, offer a valuable tool in deciphering which direction to go when you have a quick decision to make.

Toss the coin up in the air, forget about it, and your mind will be made.

Originally published here.

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