You know you’re irrational.
Seeing as none of us came out of the womb with a psychology degree, trying to figure out why we do what we do is challenging enough, let alone make sense of what anybody else is doing. Attempting to understand the intentions and motives of those around us can at times seem too complicated to understand. Decision making is a cognitive process, meaning there is information processing and strategy involved. Here's a broad overview of some of the biggest psychological factors that influence the decision making process.
5 Important Psychological Factors in the Decision Making Process:
One of the most prevalent factors present during decision-making is history. Memories, emotions, and desires of the past may influence future behavior. You probably know it as "emotional baggage." However, psychologically it is more than that. Most biases within a thought process are subconscious. Whether or not you consciously remembers the past experiences, your baggage still heavily influences future decisions.
Your ethics (Catholic, Democratic, Quaker, non-religious ethics, what have you) in a decision-making process can help predict what the outcome might be. Morality is determined by beliefs, opinions, and external factors. Whether you believe in Allah, Big Brother, or UFOs, before you act you wonder: "Is anyone watching?"
If the irrationally popularized The OC taught us anything (and of course it did), it was the value of “confidence, Cohen.” If you’re confident that you are prepared for any situation, you’re likely to make riskier decisions. On the opposite end of this spectrum, if you don’t trust yourself you’re going to err on the side of caution. According to Social Factors Shaping Perception and Decision-Making, how you view yourself, positively or negatively, factors majorly in dictating you future actions.
Beyond your view of yourself, you worry about how other people will see you and what your actions will do to others. Considering different options will determine different results for someone, whether positive of negative. Let’s face it, no one likes feeling guilty.
3. The "Bigger Picture"
If someone takes time to consider how one decision will affect another, they may analyze what could possibly be their "domino effect." However, most people do NOT consider the "bigger picture" when making their decisions.
What about the desire to skew your situation in a positive light? Your mom called it wishful thinking (Mowing lawns will never buy me a car? I’m going to mow all the lawns!). If somebody relies heavily on wishful thinking, they may believe that a certain outcome can happen if they make a certain choice. However, sometimes the "hope" of a positive outcome deludes one's logical thought process.
4. Attribution Asymmetry
Most people attribute their accomplishments to their own abilities, but when things don’t go as well they tend to blame a negative situation (rather than their own incompetence). They deflect the blame from their own failings. Of course, when something good happens to someone else, it’s the opposite story. Attribution asymmetry states that when something awesome happens to someone else, it’s because of luck. It turns into a feedback loop: if you’re a genius (in your own mind), your decisions are clearly the right ones. If not, you’re just stuck between a rock and a hard place.
5. Wishful Thinking
Self-control becomes a factor in decision-making in regard to an individual’s belief system. As stated in “Leadership Decision Making,” someone's belief or lack thereof may determine what they are naturally inclined to do. Having self-control may increase feelings of confidence, while lack of self-control may result in hopelessness or despair.
This may be the most misunderstood psychological factor in anyone's mind. We believe (with however much delusion) that we have more control than we actually do. We make decisions to manipulate our outcomes. If you’re living in a basement, you’re going to do whatever it takes to get out of the basement, even if it means deep-sea diving.
The mental, emotional, and psychological processes in decision-making are very involved. However, the attempt of understanding this process can be understood more easily through recognizing the most prevalent psychological factors affecting those around us. Considering someone's past experiences, biases, and desires can help provide some insight on why people do the things they do.
About the Author:
Allison Gamble has been a curious student of psychology since high school. She brings her understanding of the mind to work in the weird world of internet marketing.
photo credit: liquene