I was having a conversation with a friend over coffee a few days ago. She casually mentioned that she has encountered a lot more irrational people lately. So I asked her to explain further. She said that compared to ten years ago, she feels she now meets a lot more people both at work and in her personal lives who make irrational decisions. Here are the two examples she gave: 1. My friend is part of a team at work where the project leader recently needed to pick several team members to complete a certain part of the project. Instead of picking the most competent team, the project leader picked two out of three members who were less out-spoken (and presumably less likely to speak out against the project leader). 2. My friend’s sister is heavily in debt, yet instead of making plans to get out of debt, she spends ever more heavily.

Some of my guy friends like to say that irrational decisions are more often than not linked to the female brain. In other words, their rationale is that women are less likely to make rational decisions (when compared to men) because of the way the female brain is shaped over the years. I used to agree (but to a much lesser extend) to their arguments because of my own experience. From my own observation, I see that more women than men make irrational decisions (and that includes myself). But I now believe that’s a faulty way of looking at the issue, after the nice conversation with my friend.

I intentionally created ambiguity around the gender of the project leader mentioned above because I wanted you to decide for yourself the gender of the guilty party. I bet you thought it was a woman, but it turned out the project leader was a man. In fact, my new theory around irrational decision making centers around education and training, not gender. In other words, I believe that having the proper education, namely science and math training, helps with making more rational decision. The reason is scientific training requires a very rational approach to solving problems, however easy or complex. The more you are exposed to and use the scientific approach, the more you are likely to follow the rational protocol to solve all kinds of problems in your life.

So how does that explain the gender difference? It just so happens that a lot more men than women majored in math, science, engineering. That is true even today. I would even go further and say that since the percentage of people majoring in math, science, and engineering is declining in this country, we will have even more people making more irrational decisions in the future. Yes, that’s a bold statement, but I would love to be proven wrong.

What do you think? Please leave your thoughts.

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