From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia - View original article

  (Redirected from Decision making)
Jump to: navigation, search
Sample flowchart representing the decision process to add a new article to Wikipedia.

Decision making can be regarded as the cognitive process resulting in the selection of a course of action among several alternative scenarios. Every decision making process produces a final choice.[1] The output can be an action or an opinion of choice.


Human performance in decision terms has been the subject of active research from several perspectives.

Yet, at another level, it might be regarded as a problem solving activity which is terminated when a satisfactory solution is reached. Therefore, decision making is a reasoning or emotional process which can be rational or irrational, can be based on explicit assumptions or tacit assumptions. Decisions are likely to be involuntary and following the decision, we spend time analyzing the cost and benefits of that decision.[3] This is known as "Rational Choice Theory," which encompasses the notion that we maximize benefits and minimize the costs.[4]

Some have argued that most decisions are made unconsciously. Jim Nightingale, Author of Think Smart-Act Smart, states that "we simply decide without thinking much about the decision process." In a controlled environment, such as a classroom, instructors might try to encourage students to weigh pros and cons before making a decision. This strategy is known as Franklin's Rule. Because such a rule requires time, cognitive resources and full access to relevant information about the decision, Franklin's Rule may not best describe how people naturally make their decisions.[citation needed]

Logical decision making is an important part of all science-based professions, where specialists apply their knowledge in a given area to make informed decisions. For example, medical decision making often involves making a diagnosis and selecting an appropriate treatment. Some[which?] research using naturalistic methods shows, however, that in situations with higher time pressure, higher stakes, or increased ambiguities, experts use intuitive decision making rather than structured approaches, following a recognition primed decision approach to fit a set of indicators into the expert's experience and immediately arrive at a satisfactory course of action without weighing alternatives. Recent robust decision efforts have formally integrated uncertainty into the decision making process. However, decision analysis, recognized and included uncertainties with a structured and rationally justifiable method of decision making since its conception in 1964.

A major part of decision making involves the analysis of a finite set of alternatives described in terms of evaluative criteria. “Information Overload” is when there is a substantial gap between the capacity of information and the ways we adapt. The overload of information can be related to problems processing and tasking, which impacts decision making.[5] These criteria may be benefit or cost in nature. Then the problem might be to rank these alternatives in terms of how attractive they are to the decision maker(s) when all the criteria are considered simultaneously. Another goal might be to just find the best alternative or to determine the relative total priority of each alternative (for instance, if alternatives represent projects competing for funds) when all the criteria are considered simultaneously. Solving such problems is the focus of multi-criteria decision analysis (MCDA) also known as multi-criteria decision making (MCDM). This area of decision making, although it is very old and has attracted the interest of many researchers and practitioners, is still highly debated as there are many MCDA / MCDM methods which may yield very different results when they are applied on exactly the same data.[6] This leads to the formulation of a decision making paradox.

Rational and irrational decision making[edit]

In economics, it is thought that if humans are rational and free to make their own decisions, then they would behave according to the rational choice theory.[7] This theory states that people make decisions by determining the likelihood of a potential outcome, the value of the outcome and then multiplying the two. For example, with a 50% chance of winning $20 or a 10% chance of winning $10, people more likely to choose the first option.[7]

However, in reality, there are some factors that affect decision making abilities and cause people to make irrational decisions, one of them being availability bias. Availability bias is the tendency for some items that are more readily available in memory to be judged as more frequently occurring.[7] For example, someone who watches a lot of movies about terrorist attacks may think the frequency of terrorism to be higher than it actually is.

Information overload[edit]

Information overload is "a gap between the volume of information and the tools we need to assimilate it."[8] It is proven in some studies[which?] that the more information overload, the worse the quality of decisions made. There are 5 factors concerning information overload:

Hall, Ariss & Todorov with an assistant Rashar phinyor (2007) described an illusion of knowledge, meaning that as individuals encounter too much knowledge it actually interferes with their ability to make rational decisions.[9]

Problem analysis vs decision making[edit]

It is important to differentiate between problem analysis and decision making. The concepts are completely separate from one another. Traditionally it is argued that problem analysis must be done first, so that the information gathered in that process may be used towards decision making.[10]

Problem analysis
Decision making
Decision planning

Making a decision without planning is fairly common, but does not often end well. Planning allows for decisions to be made comfortably and in a smart way. Planning makes decision making a lot more simple than it is.

Decision will get four benefits out of planning: 1. Planning give chance to the establishment of independent goals. It is a conscious and directed series of choices. 2. Planning provides a standard of measurement. It is a measurement of whether you are going towards or further away from your goal. 3. Planning converts values to action. You think twice about the plan and decide what will help advance your plan best. 4. Planning allows for limited resources to be committed in an orderly way. Always govern the use of what is limited to you. (e.g. money, time, etc.)[13]

Analysis paralysis

Analysis paralysis is the state of over-analyzing (or over-thinking) a situation, or citing sources, so that a decision or action is never taken, in effect paralyzing the outcome.

Everyday techniques[edit]

Decision making techniques can be separated into two broad categories: Group decision making techniques and individual decision making techniques:

Individual decision making techniques can often be applied by a group as part of a group decision making technique.

A need to use software for the decision making process is emerging for individuals and businesses. This is due to increasing decision complexity, and increased requirements to consider additional stakeholders, categories, elements, or factors that impact important decisions.

Decision making stages[edit]

Developed by B. Aubrey Fisher, there are four stages that should be involved in all group decision making. These stages, or sometimes called phases, are important for the decision making process to begin

Orientation stage – This phase is where members meet for the first time and start to get to know each other.

Conflict stage – Once group members become familiar with each other, disputes, little fights and arguments occur. Group members eventually work it out.

Emergence stage – The group begins to clear up vague opinions by talking about them.

Reinforcement stage – Members finally make a decision, while justifying themselves that it was the right decision.

It is said that critical norms in a group improves the quality of decisions, while the majority of opinions (called consensus norms) do not. This is due to collaboration between one another, and when group members get used to, and familiar with, each other, they will tend to argue and create more of a dispute to agree upon one decision. This does not mean that all group members fully agree — they may not want argue further just to be liked by other group members or to "fit in".[21]

Decision making steps[edit]

Each step in the decision making process may include social, cognitive and cultural obstacles to successfully negotiating dilemmas. It has been suggested that becoming more aware of these obstacles allows one to better anticipate and overcome them.[22] The Arkansas Program presents eight stages of moral decision making based on the work of James Rest:

  1. Establishing community: creating and nurturing the relationships, norms, and procedures that will influence how problems are understood and communicated. This stage takes place prior to and during a moral dilemma
  2. Perception: recognizing that a problem exists
  3. Interpretation: identifying competing explanations for the problem, and evaluating the drivers behind those interpretations
  4. Judgment: sifting through various possible actions or responses and determining which is more justifiable
  5. Motivation: examining the competing commitments which may distract from a more moral course of action and then prioritizing and committing to moral values over other personal, institutional or social values
  6. Action: following through with action that supports the more justified decision. Integrity is supported by the ability to overcome distractions and obstacles, developing implementing skills, and ego strength
  7. Reflection in action
  8. Reflection on action

Other decision making processes have also been proposed. One such process, proposed by Dr. Pam Brown of Singleton Hospital in Swansea, Wales, breaks decision making down into seven steps:[23]

  1. Outline your goal and outcome.
  2. Gather data.
  3. Develop alternatives (i.e., brainstorming)
  4. List pros and cons of each alternative.
  5. Make the decision.
  6. Immediately take action to implement it.
  7. Learn from and reflect on the decision.

Cognitive and personal biases[edit]

Biases can creep into our decision making processes. Many different people have made a decision about the same question (e.g. "Should I have a doctor look at this troubling breast cancer symptom I've discovered?" "Why did I ignore the evidence that the project was going over budget?") and then craft potential cognitive interventions aimed at improving decision making outcomes.

Here is a list of commonly debated biases in judgment and decision making.

Reference class forecasting was developed to eliminate or reduce cognitive biases in decision making.

Post-decision analysis[edit]

Evaluation and analysis of past decisions is complementary to decision making; see also mental accounting and Postmortem documentation.

Cognitive styles[edit]

Influence of Myers-Briggs type[edit]

According to behavioralist Isabel Briggs Myers, a person's decision making process depends to a significant degree on their cognitive style.[31] Myers developed a set of four bi-polar dimensions, called the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI). The terminal points on these dimensions are: thinking and feeling; extroversion and introversion; judgment and perception; and sensing and intuition. She claimed that a person's decision making style correlates well with how they score on these four dimensions. For example, someone who scored near the thinking, extroversion, sensing, and judgment ends of the dimensions would tend to have a logical, analytical, objective, critical, and empirical decision making style. However, some[who?] psychologists say that the MBTI lacks reliability and validity and is poorly constructed.

Other studies suggest that these national or cross-cultural differences exist across entire societies. For example, Maris Martinsons has found that American, Japanese and Chinese business leaders each exhibit a distinctive national style of decision making.[32]

Optimizing vs. satisficing[edit]

Herbert A. Simon coined the phrase "bounded rationality" to express the idea that human decision making is limited by available information, available time, and the information-processing ability of the mind. Simon also defined two cognitive styles: maximizers try to make an optimal decision, whereas satisficers simply try to find a solution that is "good enough". Maximizers tend to take longer making decisions due to the need to maximize performance across all variables and make tradeoffs carefully; they also tend to more often regret their decisions (perhaps because they are more able than satisficers to recognise that a decision turned out to be sub-optimal).[33]

Combinatorial vs. positional[edit]

Styles and methods of decision making were elaborated by the founder of Predispositioning Theory, Aron Katsenelinboigen. In his analysis on styles and methods Katsenelinboigen referred to the game of chess, saying that “chess does disclose various methods of operation, notably the creation of predisposition—methods which may be applicable to other, more complex systems.”[34]

In his book Katsenelinboigen states that apart from the methods (reactive and selective) and sub-methods (randomization, predispositioning, programming), there are two major styles – positional and combinational. Both styles are utilized in the game of chess. According to Katsenelinboigen, the two styles reflect two basic approaches to the uncertainty: deterministic (combinational style) and indeterministic (positional style). Katsenelinboigen’s definition of the two styles are the following.

The combinational style is characterized by

In defining the combinational style in chess, Katsenelinboigen writes:

The combinational style features a clearly formulated limited objective, namely the capture of material (the main constituent element of a chess position). The objective is implemented via a well-defined, and in some cases, unique sequence of moves aimed at reaching the set goal. As a rule, this sequence leaves no options for the opponent. Finding a combinational objective allows the player to focus all his energies on efficient execution, that is, the player’s analysis may be limited to the pieces directly partaking in the combination. This approach is the crux of the combination and the combinational style of play.[34]

The positional style is distinguished by

“Unlike the combinational player, the positional player is occupied, first and foremost, with the elaboration of the position that will allow him to develop in the unknown future. In playing the positional style, the player must evaluate relational and material parameters as independent variables. ... The positional style gives the player the opportunity to develop a position until it becomes pregnant with a combination. However, the combination is not the final goal of the positional player—it helps him to achieve the desirable, keeping in mind a predisposition for the future development. The Pyrrhic victory is the best example of one’s inability to think positionally."[35]

The positional style serves to

Katsenelinboigen writes:
"As the game progressed and defense became more sophisticated the combinational style of play declined. ... The positional style of chess does not eliminate the combinational one with its attempt to see the entire program of action in advance. The positional style merely prepares the transformation to a combination when the latter becomes feasible.”[36]

Neuroscience perspective[edit]

The anterior cingulate cortex (ACC), orbitofrontal cortex (and the overlapping ventromedial prefrontal cortex) are brain regions involved in decision making processes. A recent neuroimaging study[37] found distinctive patterns of neural activation in these regions depending on whether decisions were made on the basis of personal volition or following directions from someone else. Patients with damage to the ventromedial prefrontal cortex have difficulty making advantageous decisions.[38]

A recent study[39] of a Two-alternative forced choice task involving Rhesus monkeys found that neurons in the parietal cortex not only represent the formation of a decision but also signal the degree of certainty (or "confidence") associated with the decision. Another recent study[40] found that lesions to the ACC in the macaque resulted in impaired decision making in the long run of reinforcement guided tasks suggesting that the ACC may be involved in evaluating past reinforcement information and guiding future action.

Emotion appears to aid the decision making process: Decision making often occurs in the face of uncertainty about whether one's choices will lead to benefit or harm (see also Risk). The somatic-marker hypothesis is a neurobiological theory of how decisions are made in the face of uncertain outcome. This theory holds that such decisions are aided by emotions, in the form of bodily states, that are elicited during the deliberation of future consequences and that mark different options for behavior as being advantageous or disadvantageous. This process involves an interplay between neural systems that elicit emotional/bodily states and neural systems that map these emotional/bodily states.[41]

Although it is unclear whether the studies generalize to all processing, subconscious processes have been implicated in the initiation of conscious volitional movements. See the Neuroscience of free will.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ James Reason (1990). Human Error. Ashgate. ISBN 1-84014-104-2. 
  2. ^ Daniel Kahneman, Amos Tversky (2000). Choice, Values, Frames. The Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-62172-0. 
  3. ^ Doya, Kenji; Michael N Shadlen (2012). "Decision Making". Current Opinion in Neurobiology 22 (6): 911–913. 
  4. ^ Schacter, Gilbert, Wegner (2011). Psychology. Worth. p. 369. 
  5. ^ Kutty, Ambalika D., and Himanshu Kumar Shee. "Too much info!" Monash Business Review 3.3 (2007): 8+. Academic OneFile. Web. 3 Mar. 2013.
  6. ^ Triantaphyllou, E. (2000). Multi-Criteria Decision Making: A Comparative Study. Dordrecht, The Netherlands: Kluwer Academic Publishers (now Springer). p. 320. ISBN 0-7923-6607-7. 
  7. ^ a b c Schacter, Gilbert, Wegner (2011). Psychology. Worth. pp. 368–370. 
  8. ^ Quoted sentenced said by Paul Saffo; website written by John Foley. "Managing Information: Infoglut". Retrieved 2013-04-19. 
  9. ^ Hall, C.C., Ariss, L. & Todorov, A. 2007. The illusion of knowledge: When more information reduces accuracy and increases confidence. Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, 103: 277-290
  10. ^ Kepner, Charles H.; Tregoe, Benjamin B. (1965). The Rational Manager: A Systematic Approach to Problem Solving and Decision-Making. McGraw-Hill. 
  11. ^ Monahan, G. (2000). Management Decision Making. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. pp. 33–40. ISBN 0-521-78118-3. 
  12. ^ J. Scott Armstrong (2001). Principles of Forecasting: A Handbook for Researchers and Practitioners. Kluwer Academic Publishers. 
  13. ^ "Decision Making Techniques". 1998-07-03. Retrieved 2012-11-03. 
  14. ^ Bell Jr., Whitfield J., ed. (1956). Mr. Franklin: A Selection from His Personal Letters. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press. 
  15. ^ Benjamin Franklin's 1772 letter to Joseph Priestley -
  16. ^ Batley, Richard; Daly, Andrew (October 2006). "On the equivalence between elimination-by-aspects and generalised extreme value models of choice behaviour". Journal of Mathematical Psychology 50 (5): 456–467. doi:10.1016/ 
  17. ^ Tversky, Amos (July 1972). "Elimination by aspects: A theory of choice". Psychological Review 79 (4): 281–299. doi:10.1037/h0032955. 
  18. ^ Tversky, Amos; Sattath, Shmuel (November 1979). "Preference trees". Psychological Review 86 (6): 542–573. doi:10.1037/0033-295X.86.6.542. 
  19. ^ Random Decision Making App for Windows 8 devices
  20. ^ Krapohl, Donald. "A Structured Methodology for Group Decision Making". AugmentedIntel. Retrieved 26 April 2013. 
  21. ^ Postmes, T; Spears, Russell; Cihangir, Sezgin (2001). "Quality of decision making and group norms". Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 80 (6): 918–930. doi:10.1037/0022-3514.80.6.918. PMID 11414374. 
  22. ^ The Role of Learning Theory in Building Effective College Ethics Curricula. Pijanowski. 2009, p.6. Retrieved 2012-01-12.
  23. ^ making Career coach - decision-making, Pulse, November 29, 2007, retrieved July 12, 2012 
  24. ^ Blackhart, G. C.; Kline, J. P. (2005). "Individual differences in anterior EEG asymmetry between high and low defensive individuals during a rumination/distraction task". Personality and Individual Differences 39 (2): 427–437. doi:10.1016/j.paid.2005.01.027. 
  25. ^ Drake, R. A. (1993). "Processing persuasive arguments: 2. Discounting of truth and relevance as a function of agreement and manipulated activation asymmetry". Journal of Research in Personality 27 (2): 184–196. doi:10.1006/jrpe.1993.1013. 
  26. ^ Chua, E. F.; Rand-Giovannetti, E.; Schacter, D. L.; Albert, M.; Sperling, R. A. (2004). "Dissociating confidence and accuracy: Functional magnetic resonance imaging shows origins of the subjective memory experience". Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience 16 (7): 1131–1142. doi:10.1162/0898929041920568. PMID 15453969. 
  27. ^ Plous, 1993
  28. ^ Perneger, T. V.; Agoritsas, T. (2011). "Doctors and Patients' Susceptibility to Framing Bias: A Randomized Trial". J Gen Intern Med 26 (12): 1411–1417. doi:10.1007/s11606-011-1810-x. PMC 3235613. PMID 21792695. 
  29. ^ Schacter, Gilbert, Wegner (2011)Psychology (2nd Edition), page 372, Worth Publishers
  30. ^ Schacter, Gilbert, Wegner (2011)Psychology (2nd Edition), page 373, Worth Publishers
  31. ^ Myers, I. (1962) Introduction to Type: A description of the theory and applications of the Myers-Briggs type indicator, Consulting Psychologists Press, Palo Alto Ca., 1962.
  32. ^ Martinsons, Maris G., Comparing the Decision Styles of American, Chinese and Japanese Business Leaders. Best Paper Proceedings of Academy of Management Meetings, Washington, DC, August 2001 [1]
  33. ^ "The science behind making decisions". Pri.Org. 2009-05-29. Retrieved 2012-11-03. 
  34. ^ a b Katsenelinboigen, Aron. The Concept of Indeterminism and Its Applications: Economics, Social Systems, Ethics, Artificial Intelligence, and Aesthetics Praeger: Westport, Connecticut, 1997, p.6
  35. ^ V. Ulea, The Concept of Dramatic Genre and The Comedy of A New Type. Chess, Literature, and Film. Southern Illinois University Press, 2002, pp. 17–18
  36. ^ Selected Topics in Indeterministic Systems Intersystems Publications: California, 1989, p. 21
  37. ^ Interactions between decision making and performance monitoring within prefrontal cortex
  38. ^ Damasio, AR (1994). Descarte's Error: Emotion, reason and the human brain. New York: Picador. ISBN 0-333-65656-3. 
  39. ^ Roozbeh Kiani and Michael N. Shadlen, Representation of Confidence Associated with a Decision by Neurons in the Parietal Cortex
  40. ^ Kennerly, et al. (2006)
  41. ^ Nasir Naqvi, et al. "The Role of Emotion in Decision Making: A Cognitive Neuroscience Perspective", Current Directions in Psychological Science, doi:10.1111/j.1467-8721.2006.00448.x