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How Should We Make Hard Decisions?

The emotional system

It's only in the last few years that researchers have demonstrated that the emotional system might excel at complex decisions, or those involving lots of variables.

This would suggest that the unconscious is better suited for difficult cognitive tasks than the conscious brain, that the very thought process we've long disregarded as irrational and impulsive might actually be "smarter" than reasoned deliberation.

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IDEA EXTRACTED FROM:

How Should We Make Hard Decisions?

How Should We Make Hard Decisions?

https://www.wired.com/2011/09/how-should-we-make-hard-decisions/

wired.com

4

Key Ideas

The rational manner

When faced with a difficult dilemma, we should carefully assess our options and spend a few moments consciously deliberating the information. Then, we should choose the best fit for our preferences. 

The emotional system

It's only in the last few years that researchers have demonstrated that the emotional system might excel at complex decisions, or those involving lots of variables.

This would suggest that the unconscious is better suited for difficult cognitive tasks than the conscious brain, that the very thought process we've long disregarded as irrational and impulsive might actually be "smarter" than reasoned deliberation.

How emotional decision-making works

Thinking in a rational manner is more effective when there are limited pieces of information.  However, those focused on feelings prove far better in complex conditions

The advantages of emotional decision-making could be undone by a subsequent bout of deliberation, which suggests that we shouldn't doubt a particularly strong instinct, at least when considering lots of information.

How to make hard decisions

Use your conscious mind to acquire all the information you need for making a decision. But don't try to analyze the information with your conscious mind. 

Instead, go on holiday while your unconscious mind digests it. Whatever your intuition then tells you is almost certainly going to be the best choice.

SIMILAR ARTICLES & IDEAS:

Work on the right decision

The way you frame your decision at the outset can make all the difference. 

State your decision problems carefully, acknowledge their complexity and avoid unwarranted assumptions ...

Specify your objectives

A decision is a means to an endAsk yourself what you most want to accomplish and which of your interests, values, concerns, fears, and aspirations are most relevant to achieving your goal.

Decisions with multiple objectives cannot be resolved by focusing on any one objective.

Create imaginative alternatives

Your decision can be no better than your best alternative.

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How we make decisions
How we make decisions

New studies examined the relationship between how people make decisions - if they make it rationally or emotionally - and how determined they are to defend that choice.

They found t...

Implications of emotional decision-making
  • For marketers: Drawing out a decision based on feelings could encourage a stronger allegiance among consumers. This could be achieved through subtle tactics like visuals instead of words, or colors instead of gray-scale.

  • For consumers: Choices that need steadfast commitment should be made with emotion instead of weighing up pros and cons. Choices that need frequent consideration should be made rationally.

The feeling of free will

The feeling of free will may be an illusion. 

Our brain can subconsciously predict an outcome of a decision before we are aware we are making one. Yet, we often believe that we conscious...

Unconscious decisions
One study revealed that two parts of the brain – the frontopolar cortex and the precuneus - showed activity that predicted the choices of volunteers 7 seconds before the subjects were consciously aware of their decisions. 

It suggests that our choices have already been influenced before we become aware of the decision.

Default choices
Default choices

90% of your daily decisions happen automatically, many shaped by your environment. Thus, most decisions are a habit, not a deliberate choice.

To make smarter choices, design smarter...

Designing your life

Design your life like a choice architect:

  • Encourage smarter decisions you want to do by making them more accessible.
  • Add friction to habits you want to quit, making them less accessible, or remove the option to perform them completely.
Richard Thaler
Richard Thaler

“First, never underestimate the power of inertia. Second, that power can be harnessed.” 

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Decisions Using Our Instinct
Decisions Using Our Instinct

Business leaders often make important decisions that defy any logical analysis. This process may be termed as a gut instinct, a hunch, or an inner voice.

Our emotions and feelings may b...

Patterns In Randomness

Our gut instinct or intuition can come in many forms, like detecting patterns in places where other people only see randomness or having a sudden flash of brilliance which goes against the grain but feels right.

Gathering enough data to make a rational decision also takes up a lot of time, and in today's fast-paced world, by the time one procures all data, the decision becomes antiquated.

Subconscious And Conscious Brain

Our subconsious mind continuously processes information, even when we sleep, which our conscious mind finally learns or infers, lighting a bulb inside us.

We know the gut feeling is true because our 'right brain'(intuition and emotion-based) already knew the revelation that our left brain (logic and consciousness-based) now has come to know.

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Zero-based thinking

It gives us the rare opportunity to ask ourselves if there anything in our lives that we should do more of, less of, start or stop.

It is a decision thinking technique developed by Brian...

Difficult decisions

Difficult decisions are mostly about weighing the long and short term values. Making objective decisions is difficult because we are biased towards short-term rewards and pre-existing beliefs.

Optimal choices

Ask yourself, knowing what you know now, is there anything you are doing today that you wouldn't do again if you were able to?  

Be willing to stop doing what no longer works. Sometimes it is best to cut your losses and try something else. Be prepared to take risks and understand the potential failure that goes with a new course of action.

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Information and decision making

The fact that we live in an age of information should allow us to make super-informed, data-driven decisions all the time.

But the widespread availability of information does no...

Snap judgments

Individuals fail to anticipate how little information they and others use when making decisions.

An the immediacy of human judgment generally surprises people: we are startled by how quickly we make judgments and how little information we use doing so.

Snap judgments

We fail to anticipate how little information we (and others) use when making decisions.

The immediacy of human judgment generally surprises people: we are startled by how quickly we make judgments and how little information we use doing so.

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Intuition as a tool

Emotions and intuition are not fallible tools that always need to be ignored or even corrected by rational faculties,.

Intuition is the result of a lot of processing that happens in the brain...

Predictive processing framework

Research suggests that the brain is a large predictive machine, constantly comparing incoming sensory information and current experiences against stored knowledge and memories of previous experiences, and predicting what will come next. This is described in what scientists call the “predictive processing framework”.

This ensures that the brain is always as prepared to deal with the current situation as optimally as possible.

The two thinking styles
Intuitive thinking is described as automatic, fast, and subconscious. Analytic thinking, on the other hand, is slow, logical, conscious and deliberate. Analytic and intuitive thinking are not opposites. They are complementary and can work in concert.

Even groundbreaking scientific research may start with intuitive knowledge that enables scientists to formulate innovative ideas and hypotheses, which later can be validated through rigorous testing and analysis.

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For decision-making success:
  1. Book time to think: It’s counterintuitive, but making decisions faster requires consciously giving yourself time to make them.
  2. Define the decision: Before delving into de...
Fall back on your values

Having clear values that you try to live by can make tough decisions easier.

For example, maybe you know there’s a certain amount of time you want to spend with your family, or a baseline level of debt you’re willing to carry.

Talk it through

You don’t need to speak with someone who’s knowledgeable on the topic. 

You just need a good listener who’ll give you time and space to hear out your monologue and occasionally reflect back to you what you’ve shared.

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We all make bad decisions

While we may not like to admit this, we all are making a lot of bad decisions, be it our personal lives, careers or in our jobs. Here is what research says about making good decisions:

The right information, not more

If there is too much information, we tend to make the wrong decision, and even if our decision is well-researched and considered right, we end up dissatisfied. 

The right information, even if less, provides clarity to make the right decision.

Gut feelings vs logic

A gut feeling, or an instinct, is often the right path, and points towards the right decision.

Ultra-rational, logical and unemotional decision-making does not guarantee that the decision taken will be the right one.

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