The Psychology Behind Decision-Making

Understanding How Our Minds Make Choices

by Miyakhel ihsan
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Decision making is a complex process that involves gathering information, weighing options, and choosing a course of action. It is a fundamental aspect of our daily lives and shapes the outcomes we experience in various domains, such as work, relationships, health, and finances. Despite its centrality, decision making is often influenced by a range of psychological factors that can lead to suboptimal outcomes. Understanding the psychology of decision making can help individuals make better choices and achieve their goals.

One of the key aspects of decision making is the availability heuristic. This is the tendency to base our decisions on the information that is most readily available to us, rather than a more comprehensive analysis of all options. For example, if we are trying to decide where to go for dinner, we might choose a restaurant that we have heard of recently, rather than considering all the options in our area. This can lead to suboptimal decisions because it does not take into account all the relevant information.

Another factor that affects decision making is the influence of emotions. Emotions can influence the way we process information and make decisions. For example, if we are feeling anxious, we might make decisions that are more risk-averse, while if we are feeling confident, we might make decisions that are more risky.

The Single-Feature Model

The Single-Feature Model is a way of understanding how people make decisions. It says that when people are trying to choose between different options, they often focus on just one important aspect or feature of each option. This one feature becomes the most important thing they consider when making their choice.

For example, imagine you are trying to decide between two restaurants to eat at. The Single-Feature Model might suggest that you might choose one restaurant over the other based solely on the fact that one of them has a view of the ocean, even if the food and service at the other restaurant is better. In this case, the view of the ocean would be the single, dominant feature that you are using to make your decision.

This model can help explain why people sometimes make decisions that seem irrational or don’t take into account all of the factors that are important to them. It also shows how people might use shortcuts, such as focusing on just one thing, when they are feeling rushed or don’t have all the information they need.

Overall, the Single-Feature Model helps us understand that people don’t always consider every detail when making a decision. Sometimes, just one important aspect can be enough to influence their choice.

The Additive Feature Model

The Additive Feature Model is a decision making model that suggests that individuals evaluate the different options they are considering by weighing the importance of multiple features or characteristics. Each feature is assigned a value or weight, and the total sum of these values is used to determine the overall value or preference of each option.

The Additive Feature Model is an improvement over the Single-Feature Model as it acknowledges that people consider multiple aspects or features when making decisions, and it provides a structured way to weigh and combine these features to reach a final decision. However, it assumes that people have accurate and consistent information about the different options, and it may not always accurately reflect the complexity and dynamic nature of real-life decision making.

For example, imagine you are trying to choose between two hotels for your next vacation. The Additive Feature Model would suggest that you would consider multiple features such as location, price, amenities, and room quality, and assign a value to each of these features based on how important they are to you. You would then add up the values for each feature to get a total score for each hotel, and the hotel with the highest score would be your preferred choice.


The Elimination by Aspects Model

This  model that proposes that individuals use a sequential process to evaluate and eliminate options based on their consideration of multiple features or aspects. The model assumes that individuals have a clear set of criteria or aspects that they use to evaluate options, and that they will eliminate options that do not meet these criteria one by one until they are left with the preferred option.

The Elimination by Aspects Model highlights the importance of having a clear set of criteria and using a structured process to evaluate options. It also shows how eliminating options based on one aspect at a time can simplify the decision making process and reduce the complexity and uncertainty of choosing from a large set of options.

For example, imagine you are trying to choose a new car. The Elimination by Aspects Model would suggest that you would start by considering multiple aspects such as fuel efficiency, safety, comfort, and price. You would then eliminate all the options that do not meet your criteria for each aspect, until you are left with a small set of options that meet all your criteria. Finally, you would choose the option that you prefer the most based on your remaining set of options.

What to do in complex situations ?

The earlier discussed decision making models are often applicable in straightforward scenarios, but what happens when there is an element of risk, ambiguity, or uncertainty involved? For instance, consider a scenario where you are running late for a psychology class. You have to decide whether to speed and arrive on time, risking a speeding ticket, or drive at the speed limit, risking being late and facing deductions for missing a pop quiz. In this situation, you need to balance the probability of being late against the likelihood of getting a ticket.

In such scenarios, people often resort to two different decision-making strategies: the availability heuristic and the representativeness heuristic. It’s important to note that a heuristic is a quick mental shortcut that people use to make decisions and judgments.

Related : Four Different Types Of Parenting Styles 

The Availability Heuristic

It  is a mental shortcut in decision making that involves estimating the likelihood or frequency of an event based on how easily examples or instances of that event can be brought to mind. People often use the Availability Heuristic when they have limited information or when they need to make a quick judgment, and it can lead to biases and errors in decision making.

For example, if someone recently read or heard about a lot of news stories about shark attacks, they might overestimate the risk of being attacked by a shark because these events are easily available in their mind. Conversely, if someone has not heard about many instances of a particular event, they might underestimate the likelihood of it happening because it is not easily available in their mind.

The Availability Heuristic is a common and useful mental shortcut, but it can also lead to biases and errors in decision making because it does not always reflect the true likelihood or frequency of an event. To overcome these biases, it is important to consider additional information and evidence, and to think critically about the sources and quality of the information that is available in our mind.

The Representativeness Heuristic

is a quick way of thinking that people use when they want to judge the likelihood of something happening. It involves comparing the situation to a typical or representative example. For instance, if you’re trying to guess if someone is a teacher or a doctor, you might look at their appearance and personality, and compare that to what you consider a typical teacher or doctor to be like. This heuristic can lead to biases and errors in decision making as it does not always reflect the true probability of an event occurring.

A Word From Psychologysaga

There are various models and theories that help explain how people make decisions, such as the Single-Feature Model, the Additive Feature Model, the Elimination by Aspects Model, the Availability Heuristic, and the Representativeness Heuristic. Each of these models provides a different perspective on the decision making process and highlights different factors that influence people’s choices.

In conclusion, the psychology of decision making highlights the importance of considering different factors, including personal biases and mental shortcuts, when making choices. By understanding these processes, individuals can develop more effective decision making skills, and avoid common biases and errors that can negatively impact their choices.

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