[Question] Whence decision exhaustion?

Many peo­ple ex­pe­rience some­thing we might call de­ci­sion or ex­ec­u­tive ex­haus­tion: af­ter mak­ing a lot of de­ci­sions, it can be hard to make more de­ci­sions and to ex­ert “willpower”. Yet, this seems odd be­cause we are con­stantly mak­ing de­ci­sions all the time in some sense, choos­ing to do what we do over ev­ery­thing else we could have oth­er­wise done. So, what and why do we some­times get ex­hausted of mak­ing de­ci­sions when most of the time we do not?

Some notes to con­sider in an­swer­ing:

  • Some peo­ple seem to ex­pe­rience this from all de­ci­sions and are worn out af­ter dozens of min­utes of be­ing awake.

  • Some peo­ple seem to never ex­pe­rience this.

  • Ex­haust­ing de­ci­sions seem more salient or like they re­quire more de­liber­ate thought than ones that are not ex­haust­ing. Non-ex­haust­ing de­ci­sions feel au­to­matic.

  • Food and rest (but not a full nights sleep) helps some peo­ple re­cover de­ci­sion func­tion but not ev­ery­one seems to re­spond to this over short enough timescales for it to be use­ful for re­cov­er­ing func­tion­al­ity within the day.

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