Decision Making: Factors that Influence Decision Making, Heuristics Used, and Decision Outcomes

By Cindy Dietrich
2010, Vol. 2 No. 02 | pg. 3/3 |

An Innovative Decision Making Approach

Decision making is a critical aspect to feeling successful and happy in life; decision making is at the root of all we do. It is important to develop effective decision making skills and strategies. Problem solving strategies include, but are not limited to brain storming, cost benefit analysis, written remediation plans, and an examination of possible choices (Wester, Christianson, Fouad, & Santiago-Rivera, 2008). The decision making process can be complicated and overwhelming. As a result, it is valuable for individuals to learn a model to follow, that may be applied to everyday decisions, as well as life changing choices.

Krantz and Kunreuther (2007) posited that a goal and plan based decision making model is an effective and sound approach to take in decision making; in this model, the individual is encouraged to focus on goals, not happiness or usefulness. According to Krantz and Kunreuther, plans are designed to meet one or more goals. That is, people make plans to unconsciously or consciously meet the goals they have. And, some plans satisfy several goals. For example, people who attend a sporting event with a friend may be satisfying several goals; friendship and camaraderie, emotional stimulation from competitive sport, and potentially useful social knowledge gained from watching the game. In this model, goals are context dependent and plans are based on their ability to meet the goals. Essentially, in the goal/plan based model, the context provides the backdrop for the decision that needs to be made; goals and resources, influenced by the context, contribute to the development of plausible plans; while the decision making rules are implemented and influence the plan that is ultimately chosen. Krantz and Kunreuther apply this theory to the insurance business, but imply the theory may be appropriately applied to a variety of contexts.


Decision making is an important area of research in cognitive psychology. Understanding the process by which individuals make decisions is important to understanding the decisions they make. There are several factors that influence decision making. Those factors are past experiences, cognitive biases, age and individual differences, belief in personal relevance, and an escalation of commitment. Heuristics are mental short cuts that take some of the cognitive load off decision makers. There are many kinds of heuristics, but three are important and commonly used: representative, availability, and anchoring-and-adjustment. After an individual makes a decision, there are several differing outcomes, including regret and satisfaction. Decisions that are reversible are more desired and people are willing to pay a premium for the ability to reverse decisions; though reversibility may not lead to positive or satisfactory outcomes. Cognitive psychologists have developed many decision making models, which explain the process by which people effectively make decisions. One innovative model is based on goals and planning. There is yet a lot of research to be conducted on decision making, which will enable psychologists and educators to positively influence the lives of many.


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