Just finished reading How We Decide by Jonah Lehrer, a layman’s book about neurology and decision making. It’s basically all head, meaning there is very little discussion about the role physiological processes play in perception and cognition, but nevertheless, an interesting and easily digestible read about how we make decisions and the role of emotions in judgment. I liked how he emphasized how emotions can be an integral part of good decision making e.g. allowing you to factor in what’s more salient to you, even if you are unconscious of something. (Personally, I’ve always liked how Jung placed emotions on the rational access of the four functions with thinking, because emotions can be very reasonable, much more so than logic at times.)

Another conclusion Lehrer drew that was basically the main take-away of the book, was that you arrive at better decision making the more aware you are of your decision making processes. Sounds like this and mindfulness meditation are on the same page to me.

So, how can astrology help out in this aspect? You might be able to find your decision making tendencies by examining your natal chart. Now there’s no easy formula to do this, so I’ll give you some examples. I think you will need to take multiple placements into consideration – especially the moon, Mercury and the rest of the first seven planets as well as strong/weak elements or modalities. You might have read some books about Mercury (symbolizing the mind) and how an afflicted or combust Mercury signifies problems with the mind, but in my experience, that is complete garbage and I’ve never seen a correlation. Which brings me to my first example.

Example One. The most intelligent man I have ever met has a very afflicted Mercury – it’s in detriment/fall in Pisces, square Neptune, opposite Saturn. By intelligent, I don’t mean “street smarts” (although he has this in spades too, being a former boxer and having grown up in a conflict zone). I mean that he is a total polyglot (his favourite language of study is ancient Greek) and a rigorous philosopher, with a the quality and power of mind which has been unsurpassed by any professor I have ever met. But what of his decision making process? Very measured, careful and slow unless pertaining to anything of an emergency-like nature. He dislikes an immediate reaction and prefers to remain “open” to possibility (sun and Mercury in Pisces, strong Neptune). Incredibly detail oriented and critical (chart ruler in Virgo conjunct Jupiter; Saturn in Virgo opposing Mercury). Tendency towards indecision and prefers to consult others before committing to a choice, genuinely interested in others’ opinions (instinctual moon in Libra).

Example two. Virgo sun, Capricorn ASC, Mercury in Libra, wide conjunction to Saturn. An interesting case in which the individual had a very refined, detail oriented mind. Making minor decisions with minute differences in detail such as choosing a cell phone plan, was almost painful. You could see Virgo carefully picking out all the details and Libra considering possible angles while conservative, risk averse Capricorn provided the caution and patience to entertain this level of indecision. Interestingly, with his moon in Sagittarius conjunct Mars, I found it was the women in his life who made or at least influenced his decisions.

Example three. This is myself. I’m an outlier when it comes to making choices. I discovered this being a lab rat for psych students in my undergrad – apparently my reaction times and decision making times were off their charts. I was told that I am incredibly fast and accurate when it came to all those cognitive tasks. This bears out in my decision making as I prefer fast decisions, am comfortable with committing to action even in ambiguous or fluid environments or when unable to obtain comprehensive information. I dislike comparing too many details and rapidly excise extraneous information but may miss something important in the process. Often go with my gut and rarely consult others unless the decision relates to an area of weak competence. The thing is, my Mercury is in Capricorn squaring Saturn so you would think this would make me a cautious, if not painfully slow decision maker and thinker. You can see the Cap/Saturn influence when it comes to being more closed to input and my heavily practical mindset. But factor in Mars conjunct ASC and Sagittarian moon, and chart placements heavily weighted towards air/fire and there you can see my tendency toward taking action and rapid, intuitive analysis and decision making.

Hope this helps you to think about tendencies in how you make decisions!