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Discussion: What Motivates Us to Make Everyday Decisions

  • Feb 2, 2014 · 3:00 PM
  • This location is shown only to members

We make decisions everyday that affect our lives in many ways. These decisions can be personal, social, or professional. Each decision is usually motivated by a desire to achieve or avoid material or non-material “things” that are associated with some kind of reward or pain. Reward can be money, car, house, fame, social status, happiness etc. Pain can be physical or emotional. Therefore, many times we find ourselves in situations where we are not sure what the best or right decisions are. We seek help from external sources. In addition to numerous “self-help” books that have been written, many workshops are also conducted to help us make decisions that would make us happy or at least mitigate pain.
However, most of the literature on everyday decision-making is still based on “non-scientific” understanding of righteousness, morality, ethics etc. In this discussion, we would focus on both religious sources of motivations as well as more scientific explanations of our decision-making processes. We would focus on how the concept of Karma may guide us to make sound decisions. The Bhagavat Geeta, for example, introduced us to a scenario where Arjuna had to choose between rights and duties in order to decide whether or not to fight against his family members. Krishna offered him advice that helped Arjuna make the “right” decision. The Krishna-Arjuna discourse offers an important insight into modern decision-making process. In addition, we would discuss some research findings from the field of neuroscience and see how it may be applicable in explaining “action and fruit” analogy mentioned by Krishna. The discussion would be about the motivations behind everyday decisions or why we make certain decisions. Why is there so much variability in individual perspective, priorities, choices, and importance despite living in the same society or culture? Why do we become hypocrites without even realizing it? Why do we cheer for our sport team or country flag? We will try to answer questions such as why do we care about our social status? Why do failures depress us? Why do we get attached to materials objects? Is there any way to mitigate the negative effects on our psyche? What is physical significance of happiness, sad, pain, etc.? We would also discuss what makes us different from each other as far as decision-making process is concerned. Insights from neuroscience can provide us some answers since the brain reward system makes us think differently. We can simulate few hypothetical scenarios such as:
• What would you have thought and done if you were in Arjuna’s place? • Imagine you are left alone in this world from this very moment. Everyone human except you disappeared from this planet. All material objects in the world are at your disposal. What would do from this very moment? How would you spend the rest of your life alone on this planet? What habits/hobbies would you develop?. Without judging anyone here, this scenario will help us realize what we value and prioritize in our life. If you want just resources, you have the entire planet, would that make you happy? Would you still want to work to make money? In present circumstances, we may be overburdened and stressed out in our daily lives, having too many things to do, and achieve too much success, but what if everyone disappeared? Would you still care about success? Fame? Popularity? Social status?
• What would you do if someone willingly offers you bribe?
• What would you do if a scuffle breaks out between two or more strangers at a public place where you are also present?
• What would you do if you found an unclaimed Rs. 10 note on the road, and what would you do if you found an unclaimed Rs.500 note on the road?
The undercurrent of these questions would be to understand “why would you do that”. For example, if you return Rs 500, would you return it if the owner is a bad guy, or poor, or rich? How does owner’s status or character changes your perception of morality or honesty?
There is no pre-reading required as such. However, members are expected to be familiar with the basics of Rational Choice Theory, Behaviourism, brain’s reward system and evolution, neurochemicals such as Dopamine, Oxytocin, and Serotonin etc. along with any religious texts which guide their daily behaviour.

Members, please feel free to comment or make suggestions.

Thank you.

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  • Sourabh J.

    Wow, that was quite the discussion we had. Thanks guys for sharing and refining the theories and ideas I had.

    1 · February 2, 2014

    • Sourabh J.

      Here is one of the articles or criticism of LOA..

      http://www.scientific...­

      1 · February 3, 2014

    • Vasudha D.

      This is a completely unconvincing critique of LOA. Would love to have an elaborate and dedicated discussion about this in one of the meetings.

      February 6, 2014

  • A former member
    A former member

    I will not be able to come today . If it is after 5:30 i can make it.

    February 2, 2014

  • A former member
    A former member

    Well, The topic for meet-up is great but if this could happen on Sundays then probably more of us can join it.

    January 23, 2014

    • A former member
      A former member

      Actually, I was out of town for good 15-20 days. Now I am back so I would make sure that I attend this time if it happens on sunday. In case not possible than I will wait.

      January 24, 2014

    • A former member
      A former member

      plan an event in dwarka ccd too its good here guys,,,,,

      February 1, 2014

  • Sourabh J.

    Guys, I highly recommend you watch these both interviews in order. Both interviews clearly focuses on and very relevant to the topic we will be talking about.

    http://www.colbertnation.com/the-colbert-report-videos/432396/january-22-2014/charles-duhigg

    http://www.colbertnation.com/the-colbert-report-videos/432451/january-23-2014/patricia-churchland

    January 25, 2014

    • Sourabh J.

      I do not have links to more interviews, but here are the links to some of the videos I liked. These talks are not entirely related to neuroscience, but definitely fun to watch.
      http://www.ted.com/ta...­
      http://www.ted.com/ta...­

      January 31, 2014

    • Vasudha D.

      Precisely! Thank you for the links. See you tomorrow.

      1 · February 1, 2014

  • Vasudha D.

    Dear members, our next meeting is day after tomorrow (Sunday) on a very interesting topic. I would request members who have not yet RSVP'd to please let us know of your attendance. It would be great to engage with more members and learn from their experiences on this fascinating theme which affects our everyday lives. Look forward to your participation! Thank you.

    January 31, 2014

  • Vasudha D.

    Hello all. In deference to some of our members, I am rescheduling the event. Please take note of the changes and RSVP accordingly. Thank you.

    January 25, 2014

  • Sourabh J.

    I would also prefer Sundays over Fridays.

    January 24, 2014

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