Distractions help you make better decisions, researchers say.
According to a study published in the journal Psychological Science, you may be better able to make a complex decision after a period of distraction than a period of conscious focus.
In the study, led by Marlene Abadie of the University of Toulouse, researchers presented participants with a complex problem-solving question. Then the participants were given either a simple matching game to distract them, a complex distraction, or a quiet period in which to focus and reflect on the problem.
Researchers found that participants who came back to the problem after a simple distraction--like number matching--had a 75 percent chance of giving the right answer. Participants who experienced no distractions whatsoever had a 40 percent chance of answering correctly.
However, the unconscious-thought effect (UTE), which allows people to make better decisions after a period of distraction seems only to apply to simple distractions, the researchers say. Participants given a more complex distraction also had a 40 percent chance of answering correctly.
So the next time you're facing a tough decision, perhaps you should eschew the multitasking and opt for a game of Solitaire to clear your head.