Performance in decision making

Decision making

Decision making can be regarded as an outcome of mental processes (cognitive process) leading to the selection of a course of action among several alternatives. Every decision making process produces a final choice. The output can be an action or an opinion of choice.


Human performance in decision making terms has been the subject of active research from several perspectives. From a psychological perspective, it is essential to test one's decisions in the context of a set of needs, preferences an individual has and values they seek. From a cognitive perspective, the decision making process must be regarded as a continuous process integrated in the interaction with the environment. From a normative perspective, the analysis of individual decisions is concerned with the logic of decision making and rationality and the invariant choice it leads to.

Yet, at a different level, it might be regarded as a problem solving activity which is terminated when a satisfactory solution has found. Thus, decision making is a reasoning or emotional process which can be rational or irrational, can be based on explicit assumptions or tacit assumptions.

Logical decision making is a vital part of all science-based professions, where specialists apply their knowledge in a given area to making informed decisions. For instance, medical decision making often involves making a diagnosis and selecting an appropriate medicine. Some research using naturalistic methods shows, however, that in situations with higher time pressure, higher stakes, or maximised ambiguities experts use intuitive decision making rather than structured approaches, following a recognition primed decision approach to fit a set of indicators into the expert's experience and immediately reach at a satisfactory course of action without weighing alternatives.

Recent robust decision efforts have formally integrated uncertainty into the decision making process. However, Decision Analysis, recognized and included suspicions with a structured and rationally justifiable method of decision making since its conception in 1964.

Problem Analysis vs. Decision Making

We have to analyse the problem before making a decision. It is necessary to differentiate between the two problem analysis and decision making. The concepts are completely different from each other. Problem analysis must be done prior to the information gathered in that process may be used towards decision making.


  • Analyze performance, what the results should be against what actually they are?
  • Problems are merely distractions from performance standards.
  • Problem must be precisely identified and described.
  • Problems are caused by some change from a distinctive feature.
  • Something can always be used to distinguish between what has and hasn't been effected by a cause.
  • Causes to problems can be reduced from relevant changes found in analyzing the problem.
  • Most likely cause to a problem is the one that exactly illustrates all the facts.


  • Objective must first be established.
  • Objectives must be classified and placed in order of importance.
  • Alternative actions must be developed.
  • The alternative must be evaluated against all the objectives.
  • The alternative that is able to achieve all the objectives is the tentative decision.
  • The tentative decision is evaluated for more possible consequences.
  • The decisive actions are taken, and additional actions are taken to prevent any adverse consequences from becoming problems and starting both systems (problem analysis and decision making) all over again.

Cognitive and personal biases

Biases can creep into our decision making processes. Many different people have made a decision about the same question and then craft potential cognitive interventions aimed at improving decision making outcomes.

Below is a list of some of the more commonly debated cognitive biases:

  • Selective search for evidence (a.k.a. Confirmation bias in psychology) (Scott Plous, 1993) - We tend to be willing to gather facts that support certain conclusions but disregard other facts that support different conclusions. Individuals who are highly defensive in this manner show significantly greater left prefrontal cortex activity as measured by EEG than do less defensive individuals.
  • Premature termination of search for evidence - We tend to accept the first alternative that looks like it might work.
  • Inertia - Unwillingness to change thought patterns that we have used in the past in the face of new circumstances.
  • Selective perception - We actively screen-out information that we do not think is important. In one demonstration of this effect, discounting of arguments with which one disagrees (by judging them as untrue or irrelevant) was decreased by selective activation of right prefrontal cortex.
  • Wishful thinking or optimism bias - We tend to want to see things in a positive light and this can distort our perception and thinking.
  • Choice - supportive bias occurs when we distort our memories of chosen and rejected options to make the chosen options seem more attractive.
  • Recency - We tend to place more attention on more recent information and either ignore or forget more distant information. The opposite effect in the first set of data or other information is termed Primacy effect (Plous, 1993).
  • 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 think - 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.
  • 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.
  • 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 (Self Fulfilling Prophecy) - 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.

Cognitive styles

Influence of Briggs Myers type :

According to behavioralist Isabel Briggs Myers, an individuals's decision making process depends to a particular degree on their cognitive style. Myers developed a set of four bi-polar dimensions, called the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI). The terminal points on these dimensions are: thinking and feeling; extroversion and introversion; judgment and perception; and sensing and intuition. She claimed that a person's decision making style correlates well with how they score on these four dimensions. For example, someone who scored near the thinking, extroversion, sensing, and judgment ends of the dimensions would tend to have a logical, analytical, objective, critical, and empirical decision making style.

Other studies suggest that these national or cross-cultural differences exist across entire societies. For instance, Maris Martinsons had found that American, Japanese and Chinese business leaders each exhibit a distinctive national style of decision making.

Optimizing vs. Satisficing:

Herbert Simon coined the phrase "bounded rationality" to express the idea that human decision-making is limited by available information, available time period, and the information-processing ability of the mind. Simon also defined two cognitive styles: maximizers try to make an optimal decision, whereas satisficers simply try to find a solution that is "good enough". Maximizers tend to take longer making decisions due to the need to maximize performance across all variables and make tradeoffs carefully; they also tend to more often regret their decisions.

Combinatoral vs. Positional:

Styles and methods of decision making were elaborated by the founder of Predispositioning Theory, Aron Katsenelinboigen. In his analysis on styles and methods Katsenelinboigen referred to the game of chess, saying that "chess does disclose various methods of operation, notably the creation of predispositionmethods which may be applicable to other, more complex systems."

In his book Katsenelinboigen states that apart from the methods (reactive and selective) and sub-methods (randomization, predispositioning, programming), there are two major styles - positional and combinational. Both styles are utilized in the game of chess. According to Katsenelinboigen, the two styles reflect two basic approaches to the uncertainty: deterministic (combinational style) and indeterministic (positional style). Katsenelinboigen's definition of the two styles are the following.

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The combinational style is characterized by:

  • a very narrow, clearly defined, primarily material goal, and
  • a program that links the initial position with the final outcome.

In defining the combinational style in chess, Katsenelinboigen writes:

The combinational style features a clearly formulated limited objective, namely the capture of material (the main constituent element of a chess position). The objective is implemented via a well defined and in some cases in a unique sequence of moves aimed at reaching the set goal. As a rule, this sequence leaves no options for the opponent. Finding a combinational objective allows the player to focus all his energies on efficient execution, that is, the player's analysis may be limited to the pieces directly partaking in the combination. This approach is the crux of the combination and the combinational style of play.

The positional style is distinguished by:

  • a positional goal and
  • a formation of semi-complete linkages between the initial step and final outcome.

Strengths and Weaknesses Checklist

The chart below will help you identify your strengths and weaknesses and will give you a better idea of whether you're ready to become a small business owner.

Examine each of the skills areas listed in the chart. Ask yourself whether you possess some or all of the skills listed in the parentheses. Then rate your skills in each area by circling the appropriate number, using a scale of 1-5, with 1 as low, 2 as between low and medium, 3 as medium, 4 as between medium and high, and 5 as high.

After you've rated yourself in each area, total up the numbers. Then apply the following rating scale:

  • if your total is less than 20 points, you should reconsider whether owning a business is the right step for you
  • if your total is between 20 and 25, you're on the verge of being ready, but you may be wise to spend some time strengthening some of your weaker areas
  • if your total is above 25, you're ready to start a new business now

Introduction to reflective practice

Reflection guides us to critically question practices that we have previously taken for granted. It helps us to become self-aware of the views and assumptions that may be limiting our lives.

Reflective practice can be seen as 'consciously thinking about and analysing what one has done (or is doing)'. It is a process of looking back over our experiences, reflecting upon them and making sense of them. Reflective practice helps us to make future changes (Mezirow, 1991; Rolfe, Freshwater & Jasper 2001).

In this module activities have been organised to assist you to continue to reflect on your own learning as you engage with learning tasks and materials. You will have the opportunity to look at several examples of reflective writing where you can practice identifying some of the characteristics of different types of reflection.

Perception in Communication

In living our lives and communicating with each other our perception of reality is less important than reality itself. Some would argue that there IS no ultimate reality, only the illusion of our perceptions.

Our perceptions are influenced by:

  1. physical elements - what information your eye or ear can actually take in, how your brain processes it.
  2. environmental elements - what information is out there to receive, its context.
  3. learned elements - culture, personality, habit: what filters we use to select what we take in and how we react to it.

For instance, color blind people will not perceive "red" the way as other people do. Those with normal vision may physically see "red" similarly, but will interpret it culturally:

  • red meaning "stop" or "anger" or "excitement" or "in debt" (US)
  • red meaning "good fortune" (China)
  • red meaning your school's colors

Selective Attention

The world deluges us with sensory information every second. Our mind produces interpretations and models and perceptions a mile a minute. To survive, we have to select what information we attend to and what we remember.

Information that attracts our attention

  • Sends out strong physical stimulus: contrast, blinking, loudness, etc.
  • Elicits emotion - TV dramas, memory aid: when taking notes on an article, write your emotional response to it
  • Is unexpected? (This may draw your attention or conversely, you may miss it entirely with your mind filling in the missing pieces you expected to receive.)
  • Fits a pattern
  • Previous knowledge that gives it context
  • Interests you
  • Connects to basic needs
  • Is useful.

Note how important your cultural filters will be in determining the answers to these questions-what hooks your emotions? What is "normal" and what is "unexpected", etc.

Understanding Perception in Management

Once a manager allows perception to enter his.her mind, the actual truth becomes distorted. Some managers will meet an applicant or new employee and develop a stereotype based solely on what they perceive. Unfortunately, several employees have experienced situation, where a manager has made a decision based on their perception of the truth. But, perception should not be relied on when making a decision.

Understanding Perception

What is Perception?

"Perception is a process by which individuals organize and interpret their sensory impressions in order to give meaning to their environment". "The brain seeks information, mainly by directing an individual to look, listen and sniff." But, perception can cause disagreements among people, because each person sees things differently. So, it isn't unusual, for two people to see something and perceive it differently. There are many situations that arise that a manager must decide between truth and perception. Basically, a person "knows the object is familiar and whether it is desirable or dangerous".

Functions in Perceptions

Many factors will aid in influencing the way a manager can view someone or something. Some factors influencing a mangers perception are the person's attitude and motive/ motive, interest, experience, and expectation. The manager will have to delete their own perceptions of what they are seeing and decide on the facts only. Basically, "perception are created by habit" (Howard, Unknown) and they can become a major pitfall. Some "situations" may factor in a person's perception: like "time", "work settings", and "social settings" (Robbins, 2005).

Human behavior

Human behavior is the population of behaviors exhibited by human beings and influenced by culture, attitudes, emotions, values, ethics, authority, rapport, hypnosis, persuasion, coercion and/or genetics.

The behavior of people (and other organisms or even mechanisms) falls within a range with some behavior being common, some unusual, some acceptable, and some outside acceptable limits. In sociology, behavior is considered as having no meaning, being not directed at other people and thus is the most basic human action. Behavior should not be mistaken with social behavior, which is more advanced action, as social behavior is behavior specifically directed at other people. The acceptability of behavior is evaluated relative to social norms and regulated by various means of social control.

The behavior of people is studied by the academic disciplines of psychiatry, psychology, social work, sociology, economics, and anthropology.

In 1970, a book was published called "The Social Contract: A Personal Inquiry into the Evolutionary Sources of Order and Disorder" written by the anthropologist Robert Ardrey. The book and study investigated animal behavior (Ethology) and then compared human behavior as a similar phenomenon.

Human behavior is an important factor in human society. According to Humanism, each human has a different behavior.

Factors affecting human behavior

  • Genetics - (see also evolutionary psychology)
  • Attitude - the degree to which the person has a favorable or unfavorable evaluation of the behavior in question.
  • Social Norms - the influence of social pressure that is perceived by the individual (normative beliefs) to perform or not perform a certain behavior.
  • Perceived Behavioral Control - the individual's belief concerning how easy or difficult performing the behavior will be.

Theories about human behavior

There are three major theories about human behavior and physical environment: stimulation theory, control theory, and behavior setting theory. Traditional sensory stimulation theory is based upon the statement that learning becomes successful when all senses are stimulated. This theory confirms that when multi-senses are stimulated, greater learning takes place. According to Elizabeth D. Hutchison stimulating theories alarm us to consider the quality and intensions of sensory stimulation theory in the environment where a human lives and works.

Control theory is based upon the issue of how much we try to control our physical environment, and what attempts do we make to gain this control. In control theory there are four main concepts: personal space, territoriality, crowding, and privacy. Personal space and territoriality are the main mechanisms we use to gain control over our physical environment. ("Dimensions of Human Behavior"). We use them to define the bounds of interpersonal relationships, which can verify, depending on age, gender, or culture. On the one hand, the person tries to control his physical environment, but on the other hand the environment can suppress the person.

The third major theory about relationships between human and his physical environment is behavior setting theory. According to this theory stable, constant patterns of behavior happen in definite places, or behavior settings. This theory is mostly related to the social environment than psychological. All behavioral programs occur from the social point of view, and they are developed by people in interaction, but it isn't determined by the physical environment. Behavior setting theory has implications for social works value and interference. This theory has such main aspects: programs (aspects of behavior) and level of staffing.

Interpersonal skills

"Interpersonal skills" refers to mental and communicative algorithms applied during social communications and interaction to reach certain effects or results. The term "interpersonal skills" is used often in business contexts to refer to the measure of a person's ability to operate within business organizations through social communication and interactions. Interpersonal skills are how people relate to one another.

As an illustration, it is generally understood that communicating respect for other people or professionals within will enable one to reduce conflict and increase participation or assistance in obtaining information or completing tasks. For instance, to interrupt someone who is currently preoccupied with the task of obtaining information needed immediately, it is recommended that a professional use a deferential approach with language such as, "Excuse me, Are you busy? I have an urgent matter to discuss with you if you have the time at the moment." This allows the receiving professional to make their own judgement regarding the importance of their current task versus entering into a discussion with their colleague. While it is generally understood that interrupting someone with an "urgent" request will often take priority, allowing the receiver of the message to judge independently the request and agree to further interaction will likely result in a higher quality interaction. Following these kinds of heuristics to achieve better professional results generally results in a professional being ranked as one with 'good interpersonal skills.' Often these ratings occur in formal and informal settings.


Having, positive interpersonal skills increases the productivity in the organization since the number of conflicts is reduced. In informal situations, it allows communication to be easy and comfortable. People with good interpersonal skills can generally control the feelings that emerge in difficult situations and respond appropriately, instead of being overwhelmed by emotion.


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