In Part 1 of The Best Decisions Ever Made we discussed the difficulties in knowing what that best decision query brings to us. We question our decisions multiple times before and/or after we have made them. This query process doesn’t usually change because something will always come up that we will need to make a decision on, that will bring us to question if we did make the best decision, and how do we know it is the best one. Even when the old decision making queries are resolved, new ones always come up. Exploring decision making theories, characteristics and influences can help you learn what you are confronted with when in the situation of having to decide something; as well as bring you to realize that there is no real best decision or worst decision, but that you can only do your best with what you know at the time of your decisional dilemma.
To start off with our exploration of decision making let us look at decision theory. According to Wikipedia.org this theory falls within various categories such as economics, psychology, and philosophy. The continued Wikipedia.org definition states that decision theory looks at identifying values, uncertainties, and other issues relevant with a decision accompanied by the rationality and desire of best outcome (optimal decision). This alone reiterates what was stated in Part 1 of our discourse, there is no way to know for sure whether or not our decisions are the best ones made. It will always be subjective, based on your analysis, knowledge and conclusions.
If we look at various academic theories on how we attempt to make a decision we find a long list of what can motivate us to make our decision, the influence of our thinking process and finally deciding. Under these three categories we find theories such as the consistency theory, certainty effect, bias blind spot, unconscious thought theory, and filter theory.
The consistency theory we are taking as sample here is from changingminds.org. Their definition states that “when our inner systems (beliefs, attitudes, values, etc.) all support one another and when these are also supported by external evidence, then we have a comfortable state of affairs. The discomfort of cognitive dissonance occurs when things fall out of alignment, which leads us to try to achieve a maximum practical level of consistency in our world.” The conclusions come from works by Festinger and Heider.
The certainty effect theory was introduced in the prospect theory and shows how individuals are more likely to make a decision that gives absolute certainty versus one that gives a reduction of it. I am sure it is common knowledge to us all that we prefer to be sure about something rather than not; in fact, the whole basis of this post lays in this notion: how to know what makes the best decision ever for each of us is equal to the desire of certainty.
The bias blind spot theory states that we are less likely to see our own biases in our decisions, judgements and actions. We tend to state others as more biased than us, while excluding ourselves from falling within bias. When making decisions we are convinced (most of the time) that our thoughts are without judgement, preconceived notions, inclinations and what not. The reasons for this in that we can fully explain ourselves, what we need, and our motives; while we can’t when it comes to others due to the fact that we are not them. Our fallacy however, lies in that negation of fact. No one is really immune to bias and when making a decision we should remember this.
The unconscious thought theory says that our unconscious mind can perform tasks outside of our awareness and that it is better at solving complex tasks, but not as good when it comes to making decisions regarding tasks with fewer variables (“The Unconscious Thought Theory”, Wikipedia The Free Encyclopedia.org, July 24, 2011). This theory has opposition by those who believe conscious thought is more reliable than unconscious ones, but what we want to focus on in this case is that it is possible that we make decisions with our unconscious mind. Like the bias blind spot theory, awareness of how we decide something gives us power to steer or be knowledgeable of why we make decisions.
The filter theory explains to us how when we are deciding on something a filter is applied on it based on our social and internal variables, as well as personality traits. The filter theory is a sociological theory that is mostly applied to mate selection, but does expand further depending on interpretation or desired subject of argument. For example in our case we are saying that making the best decision ever can be influenced by our built up filter system.
From this brief list of what can affect how we make decisions we realize there are many factors to keep into account; things we should be aware of for knowing why we choose one path from another. Awareness can ease our preoccupation and/or over thinking on how to make the best decision(s) and why. By having a reason it is easier to accept decisions one has made, instead of continuous question and burden. If you wish to explore these theories further and come to know more of them you can go to changingminds.org. You also find an interesting article on the subject on decisionmaking.org . The Best Decisions Ever Made Part 3 will follow with the exploration of the rational egotism principle, which will bring one solution to our best decision ever made dilemma.