New research shows that seemingly trivial things, such as the fullness or otherwise of your bladder, have a huge influence on the way you make decisions. So, if the vulgarity might be excused, to pee or not to pee? That is the question. And according to the Economist, experts have found that the answer is an emphatic “not”.
Long-term decisions made on a full bladder, the research showed, will be more rational than those made while running on empty, as it were.They did experiments and everything, using volunteers and glasses of water. Apparently, the findings challenge an established psychological theory called “ego depletion”, which holds that we have a finite well of self-control.
It’s fascinating stuff, and what I particularly like is the way it chimes with my second-favourite piece of trivia about Enoch Powell: that he liked to make speeches on a full bladder. I once shared this surprising gem with the comedian Russell Brand who, a couple of weeks later, missed the point of it spectacularly by saying, on Have I Got News for You, that making speeches made Powell want to urinate. Rather bafflingly, he added that this was what “made him a racist”.
I think Powell was on to something, and this research appears to vindicate him. The tension that arises from not relieving yourself concentrates the mind and gives you an edge. It also ensures that you avoid boring your audience by keeping your speeches short. Either that, or you risk getting caught short.
An even more literal example of how being out of your comfort zone improves your performance is the strange fact that you negotiate better while sitting on a hard seat. And removing seats entirely speeds meetings up without reducing the quality of the decisions.