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Decision Making from a Psychological Perspective

The importance of decision making lies in the fact that it is one of the most complex cognitive processes dealt with by human beings. From the moment we get up, until we go to bed, we make countless choices and decisions, both consciously and unconsciously.

The problem is that every decision involves one or more losses, thereforehandling decisionsmore efficientlyis vital for our adaptation to different situations and the achievement of our objectives.

To make decisions, it is indispensable to use our reasoning and comprehension skills. Analytical skills are also essential when choosing the best option.

Types of decision making

There are many factors, some of which are imperceptible to us, that influence our decision making.Theory suggests rational decision-making, but it is not always easy to set emotions aside. Daniel Kahneman, a Nobel Prize winning psychologist, states that there are two distinct modes of decision making:

It is not so easy to rationalize and weigh all the decisions in our lives. In fact, most of the time, we face dilemmas that have a strong emotional charge, thus complicating the decision-making process and leading to stress or decision procrastination.This system is basically emotional and unconscious.

System 2 involves analytical thought, that is, weighing up the pros and cons of a decision in a selective and efficient way. This system isrational and analytic.

The affect heuristic in decision-making

As we all know, human beings are not machines. Nevertheless, we use mental circuits unconsciously, it is a kind of “fast track” for decision-making.

The affect heuristicconsists of the valences (positive or negative) that we unconsciously give to the stimuli on which we mustdecide.

Shaffir (1993) concluded from his research that the more positive valence we give to a stimulus, the more we focus on benefits and minimize the risks involved in decision-making.

Similarly, when the stimulus has negative valence, we tend to forget about benefits and focus on the potential losses that the decision entails.

This cognitive bias must be taken into accountsince it can often influence final decision making.

Step-by-step decision-making process

Confronting a decision makes us face our own fear of failure and fear of mistakes.

The following step-by-step approach can help your decision-making because even not making a decision, is a decision in itself.

  1. Identify the decision

Identify and define the decision. Be as specific as you can.Take your time.

  1. Generate alternatives

Do not judge them, but generate as many options as possible. Open your mind.

  1. Weigh the evidence

Now it is time to review all the pros and cons of each alternative listed in the previous step.

  1. Identify the best alternative

Once you have weighed the risks and benefits of each alternative in both an analytic and emotional way,select the alternative that best fits your goal or decision defined in step 1.

  1. Take action

In this final step, you are ready to develop an action plan and implement it.

Decision-making techniques

Reverse perspective in the decision-making process

This technique is very effective when facing a mental block orwhen feeling unable to choose a path. Reverse perspectiverecommendsapproaching the problem from a differentperspective. If you are overwhelmed by thinking about the consequences of choosing an option… Why don’t you think about the consequences of not choosing it? What would happen in your life if you decided not to choose that option?

The 10-10-10 rule

It consists, purely and simply, of asking yourself these three questions:

Putting time in perspective is a very efficient strategy when it comes to decision-making, as it allows not only emotionto guide your decision but, by forcing you to get some distance fromyour dilemma, makes you focus on your priorities for the future.

Adopting a third-person perspective

It is as simple as thinking about the problem from a third-person perspective.

Research published in Psychological Science confirms that people are wiser when they take the time to reason about someone else’s problem compared with when they reason solely about their own issues.

This means that a self-distancing strategy or people distancing themselves from their own problems and considering them in the same way they would a relative or a friend’s problem–could increase wise reasoning.

Remember: Learning to make decisions is vital in order not to be a victim of circumstances.

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