Decision theory attributes a value to the time between the decision point and the distasteful event, calling it--rather dryly, the “cost of waiting.”
When we are apprehensive about such decisions, we experience dread, which occurs in a different part of the brain from fear or anxiety. New research using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) suggests that the attention paid during the waiting time is distinct from the anxiety or fear we feel about the coming event. And, there may be something we can do about it.
"The dread associated with things like medical procedures or public speaking, while real, can probably be alleviated by diverting one's attention during the waiting period," says [study author] Dr. Berns.
I hate to come off sounding too much like Woody Allen, but it seems to me we live in almost constant dread of something: the dentist, terrorist attacks, public embarrassment. Some of us are effected more than others.
In addition to diverting our attention, if we could learn to either shorten the waiting
time, or lessen the emotional costs of attention, we might lead much happier
and smoother lives.