Are you a Rational Decision Maker?
We all like to believe that we make rational decisions. But is it really so?
Think back to the last major purchase or life decision you made, you probably scoured the internet for information, asked friends or colleagues for advice, and put some real thought into that decision. You likely believe it took all of these activities to make that decision.
Now really think about your process, when exactly did you make your decision?
A major decision I made in the last 12 months was to return to formal study. I had considered it many years before and then dismissed it saying ‘I’m just not ready to do large assignments and exams again in a tertiary setting’. With so many institutions offering the course I wanted to do, how did I make my decision?
To start with I looked back at the school I looked at many years before. I read about the delivery method, content and reputation of the course, and decided pretty much right then that that would suit me. To make me feel better and ensure that I had ‘considered all options’, I also went and looked at other schools’ offerings. However I only requested an information pack from the original school. To ensure I was ‘making the right decision’ I went to the Open Day and sat in on the course program presentation. I was also invited to attend some classes for a day to experience the delivery and learning experience firsthand and talk to current students. I inevitably enrolled in that school’s course and have enjoyed the experience immensely.
Really, all the time and effort I spent ensuring I was making a ‘rational’ decision, was simply ‘justifying’ a decision I had already made.
Now I’m not saying that we are always irrational but certainly a lot of decisions we make are made on emotion and then justified. Marketeers know this and use it to influence consumer behaviour. Why else would you by a luxury top of the line Mercedes over a reliable Toyota? Or, a brand name paracetamol over a generic brand, containing the same amount of active ingredient? Think about the last time you were presented with different options for a product, you were likely drawn to a price that you felt contained the most value as the inclusions were significantly greater than the option before it but the price differential was minor. To learn more watch a Ted Talk by Dan Ariely, author of “Predictably Irrational”.
How do you feel about your big decision now? Do you see it in a different light or still happy with your choice? For me, whilst I’m now more aware of my decision making behaviour in the above example, I’m still satisfied with my choice. After commencing my studies I learned that a fellow student performed a full detailed analysis of all similar course offerings in Australia; he ended up at the same University as me – providing further justification for my earlier decision.
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