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Strategies in Decision Making


According to Myers (1962), a person’s decision-making process depends to a significant degree on their cognitive style. Starting from the work of Carl Jung, Myers developed a set of four bi-polar dimensions. The terminal points on these dimensions are thinking and feeling; extroversion and introversion; judgement and perception; and sensing and intuition. He claimed that a person’s decision-making style is based largely on how they score on these four dimensions. For example, someone that scored near the thinking, extroversion, sensing, and judgement ends of the dimensions would tend to have a logical, analytical, objective, critical, and empirical decision-making style.

Cognitive and personal biases in decision-making

It is generally agreed that biases can creep into our decision making processes, calling into question the correctness of a decision. Below is a list of some of the more common cognitive biases.

  • Selective search for evidence – We tend to be willing to gather facts that support certain conclusions but disregard other facts that support different conclusions.

  • Premature termination of search for evidence – We tend to accept the first alternative that looks like it might work.

  • Conservatism and inertia – Unwillingness to change thought patterns that we have used in the past in the face of new circumstances. (See tradition.)

  • Experiential limitations – Unwillingness or inability to look beyond the scope of our past experiences; rejection of the unfamiliar.

  • Selective perception – We actively screen-out information that we do not think is salient. (See prejudice.)

  • Wishful thinking or optimism – We tend to want to see things in a positive light and this can distort our perception and thinking.

  • Recency – We tend to place more attention on more recent information and either ignore or forget more distant information.

  • Repetition bias – A willingness to believe what we have been told most often and by the greatest number of different of sources.

  • Anchoring and adjustment – Decisions are unduly influenced by initial information that shapes our view of subsequent information.

  • Group thinks – Peer pressure to conform to the opinions held by the group.

  • Source credibility bias – We reject something if we have a bias against the person, organization, or group to which the person belongs: We are inclined to accept a statement by someone we like. (See prejudice.)

  • Incremental decision-making and escalating commitment – We look at a decision as a small step in a process and this tends to perpetuate a series of similar decisions. This can be contrasted with zero-based decision making. (See slippery slope.)

  • Inconsistency – The unwillingness to apply the same decision criteria in similar situations.

  • Attribution asymmetry – We tend to attribute our success to our abilities and talents, but we attribute our failures to bad luck and external factors. We attribute other’s success to good luck, and their failures to their mistakes.

  • Role fulfillment – We conform to the decision making expectations that others have of someone in our position.

  • Underestimating uncertainty and the illusion of control – We tend to underestimate future uncertainty because we tend to believe we have more control over events than we really do. We believe we have control to minimize potential problems in our decisions.

  • Faulty generalizations – In order to simplify an extremely complex world, we tend to group things and people. These simplifying generalizations can bias decision-making processes.

  • Ascription of causality – We tend to ascribe causation even when the evidence only suggests correlation. Just because birds fly to the equatorial regions when the trees lose their leaves, does not mean that the birds migrate because the trees lose their leaves.

For an explanation of the logical processes behind some of these biases, see logical fallacy.yes Cognitive neuroscience of decision-making

The anterior cingulate cortex and orbitofrontal cortex are brain regions involved in decision-making processes. A recent neuroimaging study, Interactions between decision-making and performance monitoring within prefrontal cortex, 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.

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