Worn out from thinking? You might forego the better deal
Mental Health Decision making Mental fatigue

Worn out from thinking? You might forego the better deal

Dr. Marijn Lijffijt
Dr. Marijn Lijffijt

In 10 seconds? A recent study examined biological mechanisms of mental fatigue and how it influenced economic decision-making for selecting either a small reward right away or a high reward that people would get later after doing extra work.

What’s the story? Researchers have found that compared to people who engaged for six hours of easy thinking (cognitive) tasks, people doing hard cognitive tasks for the same period had higher glutamate levels. This was measured with magnetic resonance spectroscopy (MRS). Crucially, subjects invested less energy (mental effort) during deciding what reward to pick, and selected smaller rewards that needed no extra work. In other words: after a hard day’s work we tend do go for quick wins rather than going the extra “mental mile” for some bigger future win.

Get unlimited access to our 3-min Digests and other premium features

Choose your plan:

Sparrow Unlimited

$19/month
  • Includes a free 7-day trial
  • Weekly Recap email
  • Daily updates with the latest research
  • Unlimited access to all Digests
  • Explore all citations and resources
  • Review learnings with Quick Dive
  • The Sparrow Sessions Podcast
  • No advertisement
  • Cancel anytime

We'll send you a reminder email 3 days before your trial ends.

Start my free trial

Sparrow Unlimited

$99/year
  • Save 56% in one, easy payment
  • Includes a free 7-day trial
  • Weekly Recap email
  • Daily updates with the latest research
  • Unlimited access to all Digests
  • Explore all citations and resources
  • Review learnings with Quick Dive
  • The Sparrow Sessions Podcast
  • No advertisement
  • Cancel anytime

We'll send you a reminder email 3 days before your trial ends.

Start my free trial