Decision science and information overload

While having a very interesting conversation over at my post about The Digital Divide and the Knowledge Deficit (about the recent MacArthur sponsored conference at Hechinger), I noticed a fascinating story by Sharon Begley at Newsweek called ?I can't think!? that deserves special mention.? There seems to be new evidence to suggest that information overload is just that ? and the bombardment harms our decision-making faculties. Writes Begley:

The research should give pause to anyone addicted to incoming texts and tweets. The booming science of decision making has shown that more information can lead to objectively poorer choices, and to choices that people come to regret. It has shown that an unconscious system guides many of our decisions, and that it can be sidelined by too much information. And it has shown that decisions requiring creativity benefit from letting the problem incubate below the level of awareness?something that becomes ever-more difficult when information never stops arriving.

Decision science, as the new field is called, would seem to raise many questions for educators, since the emphasis on "critical thinking" and "self-expression" has a great deal to do with the interchange between information and decision-making.? "[D]ecision science," writes Begley, "has shown that people faced with a plethora of choices are apt to make no decision at all."??And the alert for ciritical-thinking and self-expression adherents is this:? "One of the greatest surprises in decision science is the discovery that some of our best decisions are made through unconscious processes."?

Though Begley's story unfortunately doesn't address the question of information (knowledge) quality per se, she surely makes the point that we need some regulation over the rate of?the information?flow.? And that insight, applied to our schools, should?inspire our adults to pay more attention to how -- and at what speeds --?? knowledge is delivered to our children.?

--Peter Meyer, Bernard Lee Schwartz Policy Fellow

Peter Meyer
Peter Meyer is a Adjunct Fellow at the Thomas B. Fordham Institute