In 1972, the United States Federal Trade Commission passed a law requiring any door-to-door sale to be accompanied by a written statement informing the buyer of the right to withdraw from the purchase within three days of the sale. That law was passed due to consumer complaints about aggressive selling techniques and lowercase contracts.
Economists call this the "cooling period," and it would make sense to apply it to both fundamental decisions that can change our lives and those whose impact could become unsuspected because we cannot control all variables.
What exactly is the cool-down period?
The cool-down period is like taking a quiet moment to think before making a decision. It's that pause we take before saying the first thing that comes to mind, the time we take to think before choosing.
The cool-down period is also about not making a decision before sleeping on it. Did you know that 75-95% of dreams have emotional contexts?
Neuroscientists have seen that as the brain goes through the different stages of sleep, it undergoes drastic changes in its neurochemistry and functioning. Areas related to emotions, such as the amygdala, hippocampus and anterior cingulate cortex, become particularly active.
During sleep, emotional memories are consolidated, but fear responses are also extinguished. This means that a good night's sleep can lessen the emotional impact of situations by helping us see things more clearly. Therefore, letting at least one night pass before making an important decision also acts as a cool-down period.
The 2 situations in which we need to apply that time of reflection
While we must always think before we act, applying the cooling period is particularly important in two cases, according to economists CR Sunstein and RH Thaler:
1. Infrequent important decisions. When it comes to decisions we don't often make, like choosing the city to move to, the next car to buy or the university, we need to stop and think. In this type of decision we do not have much experience and there are many factors at play, so it is essential to apply a cooling period that allows us to glimpse all the options and weigh the consequences.
2. Very emotional situations. When we find ourselves in complex situations that trigger an intense emotional response, such as a misdiagnosis or a relationship crisis, we find it difficult to think rationally and are more likely to make hasty decisions that we later regret. In these cases, the cool-down period will allow us to regain calm and regain emotional control to make the best possible decision.
How long should this cool-down period last?
The cool-down period can last a few minutes or a few days. Every person and every situation is different, so ideally this reflection phase should last as long as necessary.
If it's a vital decision, you can postpone the pause for days or even weeks. This will give you time to gather all the information you need until you feel confident in making a decision. If you are going through a conflict situation that brought out your emotions, the cool-down period should last as long as it takes to regain control of your emotions.
It is worth clarifying that this period of reflection cannot become an excuse to procrastinate or evade decision making. It is not a time to forget a problem or a conflict, but to reflect on its causes, alternatives and consequences.
Taking time to reflect, calm emotions and take the necessary psychological distance will help us better evaluate our alternatives and anticipate the consequences of our decisions. This does not mean that we will not go wrong, but at least we will make our decisions with knowledge of the facts and being more aware of all the factors involved.
The cool-down period is not a guarantee of decision-making success, but rather a kind of protection against impulsiveness and irrationality. It simply prevents the seed of repentance from growing in the future.