When it comes to decision making, it’s said that there are two different perspectives: local and global. A local perspective refers to choosing between things one at a time. While a global perspective means we organize things into groups or sequences and make a choice based on those sequences.


The more consistent and rational model of motivation is seen to be the global perspective. This is more of our long term planning and making decisions based on future outcomes, such as eating healthy, exercising regularly, or quit smoking. People who make choices this way can see and hang onto the distant reward.


However, people tend to gravitate towards the decisions that have an instant gratification. This is the local perspective. It’s our short term, in the moment, instantly gratifying choices. However, these also tend to be the choices we regret later. For example, getting drunk at the bar. In the moment it seems like a great idea – feels good, we’re having a great time, we’re with friends. Then morning comes and we feel terrible and maybe wish we hadn’t said or done some things last night. This decision which is great in the moment later turns into a mistake.


The differences between the local and global perspectives has an influence on self control. For example, say before dinner I already decided to skip dessert because I want to stay focused on a healthy life – the distant reward. Yet, when the dessert comes, I can’t resist and somehow change my mind, and I decided to indulge – the instant gratification. When we’re calm and cool, we can see the global perspective and choose to take that route. However, when this self control problem happens, I completely go against my better judgement for the best long term results.


This can be seen in addiction. There seems to be a lack of awareness when we’re faced with an instantly gratifying indulgence. Even though when we step away, we can see the harmful effects in the long run. But in the moment, we can’t seem to think globally. Like when an alcoholic knows he shouldn’t have a drink at the bar, yet ends up telling himself “Alright, just one beer.” which we know never stays one beer. This is why addicts relapse. They are able to see the distant reward when they quit but all it takes is caving into that local perspective and we have another relapse.


Recognizing when our minds switch from global to local will help us in preventing a relapse and making healthier decisions. If you struggle with addiction or making decisions, or want guidance on thinking globally, please contact Crownview Medical Group to get connected with a medical professional who can provide some advice.