In addition to making you walk funny and drop your keys five or six times while trying to get inside your house, a full bladder may actually do something useful: help you make better decisions.
According to an upcoming study in Psychological Science, researchers at the University of Twente in the Netherlands performed experiments on more than 500 college students to determine if the inhibitory signals sent to a full bladder would “spill over” into other inhibitory responses, such as holding out for a larger monetary reward rather than going with a smaller immediate one.
According to lead author Mirjam Tuk, researchers had test subjects drink either five cups of water or sip a bit from each cup. After about 40 minutes -- the amount of time it takes for the water to reach the bladder -- the subjects were asked to participate in a choice test.
“We asked them to choose between a small, but soon-to-be-received reward or a large but later-to-be-received award, e.g., $18 tomorrow or $30 in 25 days,” says Tuk in an e-mail interview. “The number of times respondents opted for a later but larger reward was higher for people who experienced high bladder pressure.”
Subjects also participated in other tests that seemed to indicate a full bladder helped with impulse control.
“These findings seem to suggest that people possess a general inhibition system,” Tuk writes in her paper. “The inhibition of various behaviors (motor and cognitive) seems to have its origin in the same neural area. Once inhibitory signals are sent, they are not completely bound to the focal task requiring inhibition, but spill over to other domains.”
What does this mean for those of us in the real world, especially that part of the world where there are no public restrooms?
Tuk says since people make better decisions when they have a full bladder, they may want to drink a bottle of water before making a decision about their stock portfolio (or that big-screen TV).
“This is of course a generalization of experimental evidence, but any type of financial decision-making might benefit from increased bladder control,” she says. “People might be more likely to invest money in retirement funds instead of spending it on more short-term benefits, for example.”
Interestingly, Tuk says that if the inhibitory signal is less present -- i.e., if you don’t have to go potty -- then there will be less inhibitory spillover. In other words, if you’ve already gone to see that man about a horse, you may have a tendency to make more impulsive and unwise decisions.
We’re betting extra bathrooms may become a number one priority in retail outlets soon. What do you think?
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