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Kirill Ermakov
Kirill Ermakov

Decision Making


When making a decision, we form opinions and choose actions via mental processes which are influenced by biases, reason, emotions, and memories. The simple act of deciding supports the notion that we have free will. We weigh the benefits and costs of our choice, and then we cope with the consequences. Factors that limit the ability to make good decisions include missing or incomplete information, urgent deadlines, and limited physical or emotional resources.




decision making


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The ability to think critically is key to making good decisions without succumbing to common errors or bias. This means not just going with your gut, but rather figuring out what knowledge you lack and obtaining it. When you look at all possible sources of information with an open mind, you can make an informed decision based on facts rather than intuition.


How do we choose between two or more options that seem equally appealing on the surface? Decision-making usually involves a mixture of intuition and rational thinking; critical factors, including personal biases and blind spots, are often unconscious, which makes decision-making hard to fully operationalize, or get a handle on.


However, there are steps to ensure that people make consistently excellent choices, including gathering as much information as possible, considering all the possible alternatives, as well as their attendant benefits and costs, and taking the time to sleep on weightier decisions.


There are two types of rationalization that people commonly engage in: prospective and retrospective. Prospective rationalizing refers to rationalizing a decision before making it, whereas retrospective rationalizing refers to rationalizing a decision after the fact.


When a large number of people are involved in making a decision, the process can be usurped by groupthink. Groupthink is when well-intentioned individuals make poor or irrational choices out of a desire to conform or avoid dissent. As a result, group members may feel pressured to ignore ethical considerations and refrain from expressing natural doubts and concerns.


In psychology, decision-making (also spelled decision making and decisionmaking) is regarded as the cognitive process resulting in the selection of a belief or a course of action among several possible alternative options. It could be either rational or irrational. The decision-making process is a reasoning process based on assumptions of values, preferences and beliefs of the decision-maker.[1] Every decision-making process produces a final choice, which may or may not prompt action.


Decision-making can be regarded as a problem-solving activity yielding a solution deemed to be optimal, or at least satisfactory. It is therefore a process which can be more or less rational or irrational and can be based on explicit or tacit knowledge and beliefs. Tacit knowledge is often used to fill the gaps in complex decision-making processes.[3] Usually, both of these types of knowledge, tacit and explicit, are used together in the decision-making process.


A major part of decision-making involves the analysis of a finite set of alternatives described in terms of evaluative criteria. Then the task 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 task might be to 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 multiple-criteria decision analysis (MCDA). This area of decision-making, although very old, has attracted the interest of many researchers and practitioners and is still highly debated as there are many MCDA methods which may yield very different results when they are applied to exactly the same data.[5] This leads to the formulation of a decision-making paradox. 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 a diagnosis and the selection of appropriate treatment. But naturalistic decision-making research shows that in situations with higher time pressure, higher stakes, or increased ambiguities, experts may use intuitive decision-making rather than structured approaches. They may follow a recognition primed decision that fits their experience, and arrive at a course of action without weighing alternatives.[6]


The decision-maker's environment can play a part in the decision-making process. For example, environmental complexity is a factor that influences cognitive function.[7] A complex environment is an environment with a large number of different possible states which come and go over time.[8] Studies done at the University of Colorado have shown that more complex environments correlate with higher cognitive function, which means that a decision can be influenced by the location. One experiment measured complexity in a room by the number of small objects and appliances present; a simple room had less of those things. Cognitive function was greatly affected by the higher measure of environmental complexity, making it easier to think about the situation and make a better decision.[7]


It is important to differentiate between problem solving, or problem analysis, and decision-making. Problem solving is the process of investigating the given information and finding all possible solutions through invention or discovery. Traditionally, it is argued that problem solving is a step towards decision making, so that the information gathered in that process may be used towards decision-making.[9][page needed]


When a group or individual is unable to make it through the problem-solving step on the way to making a decision, they could be experiencing analysis paralysis. Analysis paralysis is the state that a person enters where they are unable to make a decision, in effect paralyzing the outcome.[12][13] Some of the main causes for analysis paralysis is the overwhelming flood of incoming data or the tendency to overanalyze the situation at hand.[14] There are said to be three different types of analysis paralysis.[15]


On the opposite side of analysis paralysis is the phenomenon called extinction by instinct. Extinction by instinct is the state that a person is in when they make careless decisions without detailed planning or thorough systematic processes.[16] Extinction by instinct can possibly be fixed by implementing a structural system, like checks and balances into a group or one's life. Analysis paralysis is the exact opposite where a group's schedule could be saturated by too much of a structural checks and balance system.[16]


Decision fatigue is when a sizable amount of decision-making leads to a decline in decision-making skills. People who make decisions in an extended period of time begin to lose mental energy needed to analyze all possible solutions. It is speculated that decision fatigue only happens to those who believe willpower has a limited capacity.[27] Impulsive decision-making and decision avoidance are two possible paths that extend from decision fatigue. Impulse decisions are made more often when a person is tired of analysis situations or solutions; the solution they make is to act and not think.[27] Decision avoidance is when a person evades the situation entirely by not ever making a decision. Decision avoidance is different from analysis paralysis because this sensation is about avoiding the situation entirely, while analysis paralysis is continually looking at the decisions to be made but still unable to make a choice.[28][self-published source]


Decision-making is a region of intense study in the fields of systems neuroscience, and cognitive neuroscience. Several brain structures, including the anterior cingulate cortex (ACC), orbitofrontal cortex, and the overlapping ventromedial prefrontal cortex are believed to be involved in decision-making processes. A neuroimaging study[29] found distinctive patterns of neural activation in these regions depending on whether decisions were made on the basis of perceived personal volition or following directions from someone else. Patients with damage to the ventromedial prefrontal cortex have difficulty making advantageous decisions.[30][page needed]


A common laboratory paradigm for studying neural decision-making is the two-alternative forced choice task (2AFC), in which a subject has to choose between two alternatives within a certain time. A study 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[31] but also signal the degree of certainty (or "confidence") associated with the decision.[32] A 2012 study found that rats and humans can optimally accumulate incoming sensory evidence, to make statistically optimal decisions.[33] Another study 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.[34] It has recently been argued that the development of formal frameworks will allow neuroscientists to study richer and more naturalistic paradigms than simple 2AFC decision tasks; in particular, such decisions may involve planning and information search across temporally extended environments.[35]


Emotion appears able 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 outcomes.[36] 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.[37] A recent lesion mapping study of 152 patients with focal brain lesions conducted by Aron K. Barbey and colleagues provided evidence to help discover the neural mechanisms of emotional intelligence.[38][39][40] 041b061a72


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