Decision making skills heightened when you’ve really got to pee

Scientists have found that having to pee super-bad actually enhances impulse control and leads to better decision making.

The relationship between bodily desires- to relieve oneself, hunger, or sexual stimulation- and impact on delay of gratification in other areas has been studied before, but Mirjam Tuk, of the University of Twente in the Netherlands was inspired to examine the concept from this angle after a coffee binge at a conference:

In an effort to stay alert, she drank several cups of coffee. By the end of the talk, she says, “All the coffee had reached my bladder. And that raised the question: What happens when people experience higher levels of bladder control?”

Tuk and colleagues created some experiments to test the theory. In one, subjects consumed around five cups of water. After 40 minutes, participants were asked to make eight decisions involving self-control, such as “receiving a small, but immediate, reward and a larger, but delayed, reward.” In one, they were offered a smaller amount of money more quickly, or the option of waiting for a larger sum for a longer period.

The subjects who drank a lot of water and didn’t get to go to the bathroom were better at holding out when it came to gratification. Although the results were a bit surprising contrasted with earlier studies, Tuk posited a theory for the findings:

The results were a little surprising from a theoretical point of view; a lot of research in psychology has supported the concept of “ego depletion” — that having to restrain yourself wears out your brain and makes it harder to exert self-control over something else. But Tuk says this seems to work in a different way, maybe because bladder control is largely an automatic, unconscious process.

Have you noticed an uptick in good decisions when you’re doing the pee-pee dance?