make decisions every day. Though our
decisions may be of varying importance, all of them affect
our lives. More important, they affect other people’s lives. Other
people’s decisions affect our lives. Our decisions, in this way,
affect the whole world.
decision-making is so important, studies
have shown that most people are quite poor at it. At least, they are not
as good at decision-making as they think they are! However, an
understanding of the decision-making process can
help us make better decisions. So let us consider how decisions
are made and how they should be made.
What is decision-making?
is identifying and choosing alternatives.
I study computers, engineering, medicine, or the fine arts?”
we have to make a decision, it obviously means that that there are (two
or more) choices that we may consider.
If you had a choice, how
would you make a decision between studying computers, engineering,
medicine, and the fine arts?
Would your decision not be
based on your goals, desires, and lifestyle?
What are your goals?
What is it that you want to
accomplish? While making decisions many people consider their choices
and then ask, "Which should I choose?" without thinking first
of what their goals are. Wouldn’t you agree that these people are not
Next time you find yourself
asking, "What should I do? What should I choose?" ask yourself
first, "What are my goals?"
If we have more than two
choices, we would obviously want to identify as many of these choices as
possible and then choose what suits us best.
What suits us best — and
our decision to go for that ‘best’ choice — depends
on our goals, desires, and lifestyle.
I eat meat or not?”
will you make this decision — to eat meat or not? Will your decisions
not be based on your preferences
(say taste)? More important, will your decision not be based on your values?
Will you not decide to eat meat or be vegetarian depending on how you
feel about killing animals?
may debate in your mind that it is all right to eat meat “because
animals are made for humans, because they are part of a food chain in
which humans happen to be higher up, so it is all right to eat meat.”
Or you may decide that you will remain a vegetarian throughout your life
because one should not kill — not even animals.
depends on your values.
refers to how desirable a particular outcome is, and the value of the
alternative (say in terms of money, satisfaction, or other benefits).
process of decision-making
do we decide what we decide? Is there a process by which we arrive at
our decisions? Let us find out.
though we may not always be aware of it, the decision-making process
a person thinking: “Should I, like all my classmates, join an
engineering college (but since I don’t like math, I might do badly in
my exams and, therefore, not get a good job afterwards) or should I
become an actor (which I want to be, but which may leave me poorly paid
or even unemployed for a few years)?”
person is obviously weighing his or her risks.
the decision-making process involves risk, we need to reduce uncertainty
and doubt about the alternatives before us to such an extent that we can
make a reasonable choice from among the alternatives, so that we can
make a choice that involves minimal risk.
person in the previous example may think: “I want to become an actor.
The chances of my succeeding as an actor are better if I join the
National School of Acting because many great actors learnt acting at
this institute.” That way, he or she would be trying to remove
uncertainty and doubt by mulling over the information that is available
about the alternatives.
and doubt about alternatives can be reduced when there is adequate information
about the alternatives.
you think that you would be able to make decisions more easily, and
therefore make better decisions, if the information you had about your
alternatives was precise?
National School of Acting produced 23 acclaimed actors from a batch of
30 students last year (so it is a good school, and I might become a good
actor if I join it).”
National School of Acting produced only 4 acclaimed actors from a batch
of 30 students last year. The rest of its students are hunting for jobs
even now (so it is not a good school, and I might not be able to make
acting my career, even if I join this institute).”
of 363 students who joined the engineering college in my town, 360 of
them got selected for prestigious jobs through campus interviews that
were held immediately after the final examinations. A survey showed that
of these 360 students 207 of them did not like math very much when they
joined (so this is a good engineering college whose teachers make it
easy to learn math. Moreover, if I pass out of this college I am likely
to get a good job immediately).”
you see how information helps
more precise the information about the alternatives, the easier and
better decisions we can make.
course, if we have complete information about all the alternatives
before us, we would be able to make a decision without any dilemmas.
But, as you know, this rarely happens!
often we are faced with information overload — too much, unnecessary information. We
should, therefore learn to select and analyze information correctly and
our values if we exercise free will.