Picking watermelons – a lesson in choices

If you were picking watermelons for the first time, it makes sense that you’d pick one that looks like this.

The color is beautiful, the lines look great and it looks unblemished.

But, it turns out such watermelons aren’t the watermelons you should look for.

The best watermelons have ugly-looking bald spots. These tell us that the watermelon was picked after it ripened as watermelons don’t ripen once picked. White bald spots are good, yellow spots are better and orange spots are the best.

This is counter intuitive as the appearance could easily lead us to conclude that the watermelon is spoilt.

As humans, we rely on appearances to make quick judgments about objects and people. Our lizard brain uses these judgments to choose a fight, flight or freeze response.

However, these responses were designed for when we lived in forests as hunter gatherers. There was danger lurking all around and these quick responses increased our chances of staying alive.

That isn’t true anymore. Thanks to our pre-frontal cortex, we have the time to seek to understand, deliberate and make better decisions. We can override our lizard brain if we choose to and get over impulses that instinctively bucket things based on their first appearances. In Daniel Kahneman’s words, we have the opportunity to use our more logical “system 2″ to make better decisions.

And, of course, this applies as much to how we judge and pick people as it does to watermelons.