I'll let Psychohistorian provide the set-up, in case the reference is unfamiliar. Anyway, my wife's expecting, and that means many, many tests, ultrasounds, etc. that she ends up going through. She had an ultrasound done yesterday that was a follow-up form one two weeks ago. There was a particular measurement that was "top normal" (the doctor's words) that they needed to keep an eye on*. The first ultrasound was done at her OBGYN, the next at the hospital she'll be delivering at.

It was during the second ultrasound that I noticed the time; it was about 11:35 when the ultrasound tech finished up and called the doctor in. Being-the-probably-over-worried-parent to be that I am, immediately the study jumped into my head. What if the doc's blood sugar is too low? Do doctors make better decisions when they're hungry, because they're more alert, or worse ones, because they're distracted? Was it better that I came in earlier so that the technician was more alert, so that she took better pictures and measurements on the ultrasound?

Both the doctor and the tech seemed to be very alert and competent, and as the follow up involved a specific measurement, the were very careful of being thorough in checking and rechecking it. The thought about the timing of the visit, though, and meetings with experts in general, is something I've been thinking a lot about since the appointment. I would really like to see a follow-up study in the medical field. In the meantime, I'm trying to consider when the bests times are to schedule appointments.

All of this is based on what seems to me to be very concrete evidence that people's thinking is affected by their hunger, and that organizational structures don't pay much attention to outcomes related to that. Is this being premature, or overly broad? Are there other factors that could come into play? My main thinking is to stay away from lunchtime and closing time, because those are the two periods where I believe people would be most distracted.

*"Top normal" in this case could also translate to "low abnormal", which shows why numbers provide much better means than words in thinking about these things. The baby's fine as of the latest ultrasound, btw (and thanks for asking!)

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Fixed your link markup for you. Toplevel posts do not use Markdown (I know, it's annoying), they use WYSIWYG or HTML.


Thank you, very much appreciated.

I would think that after years of doing routine checkups like these, even if the doctor is hungry it's unlikely that it would affect the doctor so much that a mistake would be made because of it.

Though if there's any doubts of the doctor's competency, or if it becomes a more difficult procedure, that would definitely be something to watch out for.


Prior to reading that one study, I would be in complete agreement. After, though, I'm not so sure. Really for any job where routine judgements are being made, I would have just naturally assume that habit would take over. That's why the study was jarring for me; it really does seem to demonstrate that at different times, supposedly expert decision makers came to different conclusions based on their physiology. Now, it could be that legal issues are more based on personal opinion and biases, and really don't rely on making decisions based on rational standards. My thinking, though, is that these are two domains (medicine and law) that share the common element of making a decision based on certain pre-established criteria.


I would expect that the human capacity for mercy to be much more sensitive to whether the person has eaten than the skills and capacities needed to do technical or scientific work, particularly if the skills are well-rehearsed.