Brains and heart, hand in hand

What enables us to change our mind

We have two mechanisms that help us make decisions. Even if they oppose each other, they can serve us well, especially for reconsidering choices made earlier

Koen Smets
6 min readNov 17, 2023

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What do a fictitious character from a radio soap, and two politicians — one British, one Belgian — have in common? All three found themselves in a situation where they changed their minds on a momentous choice they made earlier, in a way that is illustrative of a powerful decision making mechanism.

Three decisions

Jack ‘Jazzer’ McCreary is a somewhat rough Scotsman in the BBC-4 radio soap, The Archers — with over 20,000 episodes so far, the world’s longest-running present-day drama. He is a pigman working on a large pig farm, but as the deputy manager is likely to leave her job imminently, he is attracted by the prospect of promotion, notably by the increase in salary. With the help of the incumbent, he begins to learn what it takes to do the job, operating the complex software that controls feed and climate from behind a computer, rather than among the animals.

Gwendolyn Rutten is a Flemish Liberal Democrat politician, with a long track record as an MP and as the chair of her party for eight years. Last month, she was tipped to succeed the Justice Minister, who resigned after the terror attack in Brussels in which three Swedish soccer fans were shot, two of them fatally. However, when the party leadership nominated someone who was not an MP as the successor, she felt disrespected, writing, on October 22nd, “It is clear that the current party leadership no longer has a significant role for me.” She promptly decided to quit politics at the national level and concentrate on her role as the mayor of her home town of Aarschot.

David Cameron resigning
Going to enter that door there for one last time, and then I am off, forever! (image via YouTube)

David Cameron was Britain’s Conservative prime minister between 2010 and 2016, when he resigned immediately after losing the Brexit referendum, in which he had been championing the Remain side. He is also remembered for singing a happy tune to himself after announcing his successor in front of his official…

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Koen Smets

Accidental behavioural economist in search of wisdom. Uses insights from (behavioural) economics in organization development. On Twitter as @koenfucius