Full bladder? Scientists find you will have better judgment
New research shows that people make wiser decisions if they have to use the bathroom.
Thu, Mar 17, 2011 at 02:08 PM
The next time you are about to enter a voting booth or driving to the car sales lot, you might want to load up on a glass of water. The Telegraph reports that new research out of the University of Twente in the Netherlands shows that people who have full bladders make the most beneficial long-term decisions. If you can control your bladder, you can control yourself to make better decisions.
Just how does this work? Scientists determined that bladder control is linked to the same section of the brain that allows us to feel reward or desire. Experts point out that this is all due to how control signals in the brain work. Dr. Mirjam Tuk led the study, which was recently published the journal Psychological Science. As she told The Telegraph, full bladders allow people to control their urge for short-term pleasure and therefore make decisions that offered a greater long-term reward.
According to Dr. Tuk, “The brain area sending this signal, is activated not only for bladder control, but for all sorts of control. Controlling our impulsive desires for an immediate reward, in favor of a larger reward at a later date, is a similar type of response, originating from this same neurological area.”
Dr. Tuk decided to look into this subject while attending a long lecture on little sleep. As Psychological Science reports, she drank several cups of coffee to stay awake. By the end of the lecture, she noted that all the coffee had reached her bladder and she had to control it. She wondered if this sense of control had other applications. As Psychological Science points out, “The results were a little surprising from a theoretical point of view; a lot of research in psychology has supported the concept of “ego depletion”—that having to restrain yourself wears out your brain and makes it harder to exert self-control over something else.” However, Dr. Tuk noted that bladder control is mostly an unconscious process, so this would not necessarily apply in the same way.
Dr. Tuk and her colleagues tested her theory with two groups of people asked to make decisions with immediate rewards and others offering a larger, long-term gratification. One group drank water, while another abstained. The researchers found that the subjects who had drank more water were better able to make decisions that offered a more beneficial long-term reward.
How sensitive is this reflex? Researchers noted that “just thinking about words related to urination” was enough to trigger it. So keep that in mind the next time go shopping. If you’re making an important purchase, you may want to skip the bathroom break.
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