Imagine you are in an orchard, trying to decide which of the many apples to pick. On what do you base your decision? Most research into this type of decision-making has focused on how the brain uses visual information – color, size and shape – to make a choice. But what about the effort required to obtain the apple? Does an apple at the top of the tree look more or less tempting than the low-hanging fruit?
The amount of effort required to do something influences what we think we see and how we react. We are biased towards perceiving anything challenging to be less appealing.
In a study by The University College London, volunteers were asked to decide whether dots on a screen were moving to the left or to the right. The volunteers indicated their choice by moving one of two levers. If they thought the dots were moving to the right, they moved a lever in their right hand. If they thought the dots were moving to the left, they moved a lever in their left hand. What the volunteers did not know, however, is that one of the levers was slightly heavier and therefore harder to move than the other.
They found that the volunteers biased their decisions away from the direction that would require the most effort. If the right-hand lever was heavier, the volunteers decided that dots with ambiguous motion were moving to the left. Those for whom the left-hand lever was heavier felt that the same dots were moving to the right. The participants showed this bias despite failing to notice that the levers had different weights. Moreover, they continued to show the bias even when subsequently asked to simply say their answers rather than use the levers.
These results indicate that the effort required to act on a decision can influence the decision itself. The fact that participants were biased even when responding verbally, and despite being unaware that the levers differed in weight, suggests that they were not deliberately choosing the easier option. Instead, the cost to act changed how they perceived the stimuli themselves. The findings also suggest that it might be possible to help people make better decisions by designing environments in which less favorable options require more effort.
The researchers believe that our daily decisions could be modified not just through deliberate cognitive strategies, but also by designing the environment to make these decisions slightly more effortful. “The idea of ‘implicit nudge’ is currently popular with governments and advertisers,” said co-author Professor Patrick Haggard (UCL Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience). “Our results suggest these methods could go beyond changing how people behave, and actually change the way the world looks. Most behavior change focuses on promoting a desired behavior, but our results suggest you could also make it less likely that people see the world a certain way, by making a behavior more or less effortful. Perhaps the parent who places the jar of biscuits on a high shelf actually makes them look less tasty to the toddler playing on the floor.” Download the complete study or graphics.
The path of least repentance
God in his grand design, provided a perfect path, a perfect example Jesus Christ, gave us knowledge and agency in the day he created us wherewith we are made free. He put the proper price on freedom and salvation. At the same time he allowed competing philosophies, priorities, and plans. In life’s department store, Satan is at work mixing up the labels and price tags. Putting cheap price tags on expensive things and expensive price tags on things of little value. The good news of the gospel is liberating truth. When we seek to do God’s will, to truly live the gospel, we also seek the path that requires the least repentance. We can’t completely avoid sin and mistakes, but we can through our agency, limit bad choices, the amount of repenting we have to do, rationalizing or being fooled like a third part in the pre-mortal world who chose the easy way of not continuing to choose.
“Our brain tricks us into believing the low-hanging fruit really is the ripest”
and the world tricks us into believing (thinking, acting, becoming) the law of the lower kingdom in which we live is really the result of chance, the last resort for pleasure, and real reason we are on earth. Thomas Pain summarized the human desire for simple, easy, low-hanging fruit compared to the “most desireable” of all fruit God gives in this way:
“What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly; it is dearness only that gives everything its value. Heaven knows how to put a proper price upon its goods.”
The path of least resistance may be human nature, but it’s doesn’t have to be human habit. We can and He wants us to enjoy the fruits of coming unto Him. The path of least repentance is the life God envisions us to live. It’s a Christ-like, disciples life to fill the measure of your creation; lean not unto thine own understanding, seek not to counsel the Lord but take counsel from Him, live simply, pray fervently, live humbly, serve in the temple, repent diligently, take of the sacrament worthily, avoid debt, become as little children, take up your cross daily, have charity, listen to the still small voice, and take the high (sometimes hard) road.
“Daily decisions determine destiny.” Thomas S. Monson
The path of least resistance is the path of obedience to His commandments (general & personal). It expresses the essence of a Christ-centered life and acknowledges God, the give of the all, and the necessity for all of us to follow Him.
The path of least resistance is the path of faith in Christ. It’s an unpopular idea in today’s world wide wickedness (www), especially to the sophisticated, materialistic, scientific world. Yet, it is the path of safety, security, spirituality, and simplicity on a stable foundation. It’s a straight path through a narrow gate with an iron rod in an unstable world. It is what the world is trying to achieve, but “knows not where to find it.”
Why do we seek easy when we know better?
In Aesop’s Fable The Fox and the Grapes, a fox eyes some luscious, ripe grapes along a vine high in a tree. Rather than admit his failure to reach the grapes, the fox rationalizes that they are not really desirable.
“The fox who longed for grapes, beholds with pain
The tempting clusters were too high to gain;
Grieved in his heart he forced a careless smile,
And cried, ‘They’re sharp and hardly worth my while.”
The fox is taken as attempting to hold incompatible ideas simultaneously, desire and its frustration. In that case, the disdain expressed by the fox at the conclusion to the fable serves at least to reduce the dissonance through criticism. Similarly, when it becomes literally harder to make a decision about which way dots are moving, we unconsciously conclude that they’re moving in the other, easier direction. Compared to the gospel, do we rationalize the effort required for eternal life?
“take the harder right instead of the easier left,” Thomas S. Monson
Don’t fall into the trap of the Dollar Store Doctrine because salvation is never on sale. Eventually, every knee shall bow and tongue confess that Jesus is the Christ. The bitterness of who you could have become then will remain long after the sweetness of sinning is forgotten.
There is always a price to pay
Anyone who has made efforts at spiritual and character development will realize that attaining the upper reaches of this four-process continuum, though intensely rewarding, is far from easy. “The Son of Man hath descended below them all. Art thou greater than he?” D&C 122:8 I highly recommend reading about and daily answering the question What did you do today that was hard for you? because
“Struggle produces strength, suffering produces saints.” Neal A. Maxwell
Christ warned of the consequences resulting from the frailties of human nature and our incessant desire to take the easy road through many parables. He warned of those who don’t plant while at the same time wanting to enjoying the harvest. Said He in Luke 13:23-27;
23 Lord, are there few that be saved? And he said unto them,
24 ¶ Strive to enter in at the strait gate: for many, I say unto you, will seek to enter in, and shall not be able.
25 When once the master of the house is risen up, and hath shut to the door, and ye begin to stand without, and to knock at the door, saying, Lord, Lord, open unto us; and he shall answer and say unto you, I know you not whence ye are:
26 Then shall ye begin to say, We have eaten and drunk in thy presence, and thou hast taught in our streets.
27 But he shall say, I tell you, I know you not whence ye are; depart from me, all ye workers of iniquity.
“But this much I can tell you, that if ye do not watch yourselves, and your thoughts, and your words, and your deeds, and observe the commandments of God, and continue in the faith of what ye have heard concerning the coming of our Lord, even unto the end of your lives, ye must perish. And now, O man, remember, and perish not.” Mosiah 4:30
Want to succeed in salvation. Invest in it
The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ proffers us amazing gift on this earth, the resurrection of our bodies, the return to God and even more gifts beyond this veil of tears. Yet, the greatest gifts are reserved for those who are faithfully pursuing the path that leads to it, seek the face of God, struggle through imperfections, strive to work out their own salvation with fear and trembling before the Lord. Is there a short-cut? I know of only one, take the path that requires the least repentance. This is the path unto eternal life holding to the iron rod or crossing it as many times as possible regardless of the pain or price. “Salvation is not a cheap experience, salvation never was easy.” Jefferey R. Holland
“It is a paradox that men will gladly devote time every day for many years to learn a science, art, temporal talent or watch needless netflix; yet… will expect to win a knowledge of the gospel, which comprehends all sciences and arts, through perfunctory glances at books or occasional listening to sermons.” John A. Widtsoe