The choice between medicine and nursing

An excerpt from The Choice: Medicine vs. Nursing.

An extensive amount of data now exists in the science of choice.  Social researchers such as David Kahneman and Dan Ariely have conducted numerous experiments which suggest a number of ways in which humans are led astray when making choices.  An understanding some of these pitfalls is critical as you embark on the process of deciding between medicine and nursing.

Prospect theory

Prospect theory is one of the most well-known explanations of how we evaluate options and make decisions.  Gaining and losing are not weighted equally in our minds.  Gaining something makes us happier only to a certain point, and then the effect of gain lessens. By contrast, losing something generates negative feelings to a far greater degree than gaining something creates positive feelings.  The dividing line between what is gain and what is loss, and our tolerance for both, is different for every person and every situation.

Loss is a more powerful motivator than gain.  This is one of the most potent instincts humans have.  We are wired to react much more negatively to having lost something than to never having gained it.  This concept is particularly important for the purposes of this book, because the loss of choice that results from having made a choice can be very painful.  If I decide to have a child, let’s say, the loss of the possibility of going out to dinner or a movie whenever I want is painful, even if I never choose to go to the movies or dinner.  The loss of the option is what hurts.  If I decide to marry X, I’ve closed the door on a potential better fit in an unknown Y — even if I never meet Y.

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