Why One Neuroscientist Always Picks the Second Item on Every Specials Menu
It all has to do with "decision fatigue."
Nobody—we repeat, nobody—likes being presented with a menu that reads like a novella. Let's be real: 12+ pages of pasta varieties, salad fixings, and sauce options is likely to overwhelm even the pickiest eater—and the mental anguish doesn't end once you've ordered. You're then left to ponder what life might've been like if you'd only gone with the lighter, healthier option...or, conversely, perhaps you become obsessed with the ooey-gooey brownie à la mode you left in your wake.
Luckily, one neuroscientist has taken time out from his busy schedule to help us troubled diners out. Moran Cerf, a professor of neuroscience and business at the Kellogg School of Management and the LIJ department of Neurosurgery, has devised a brilliant method for ridding oneself of any obsessive, guilt-ridden ordering habits. For one year, he's chosen to eschew all options in favor of an "automatic selection." He simply glances at the list of specials (simply because it's already shorter than the regular menu), and then selects the second option without so much as a second thought to what it actually, you know, is.
No, Cerf doesn't leave everything in his life up to fate's guiding hand. That would, admittedly, be excessive. Instead, the scientist, who has studied human decision-making for years, makes important decisions on his own with great thought, but he does leave smaller, less consequential choices up to others.
Cerf's work centers on a concept called "decision fatigue," which is essentially the idea that our brains quite literally grow tired after weighing the benefits and pitfalls of choice after choice. As he explained to Business Insider, his choice to stick with the second item on a list of restaurant specials is just one of many ways in which he cuts down on minor daily decisions in order to allow his brain to more effectively compute the higher-stakes ones.
"I know the chance of making a mistake by giving someone else the choice is equal," Cerf told the outlet. "I might as well give someone else the choice for me."
If you do take Cerf's advice when it comes to ordering food, we'd just advise you to check out the ingredients of that "second item" to make sure you aren't allergic to it. Besides that, though, we've got to hand it to him: It's a good idea—even if it just serves to broaden our palates to a dish we otherwise might never have tried.