3 Reasons We Suck at Making Decisions
Choices are a huge part of the human experience. We make lots of decisions every single day. Many of those decisions are both simple and obvious.
But some of our decisions are very difficult, and they require time to evaluate all pertinent data along with other factors.
The bad news is that we humans are terrible decision-makers by nature. And there are countless reasons why we suck at making decisions.
Our Decision Making Systems are built on a Weak Foundation.
The basis for all of our decision-making processes is based on our ability to judge. This puts us at a huge disadvantage right from the start.
We judge the world that we perceive, but our perceptions do not represent the real world. Philosophers have pointed out this discrepancy for thousands of years.
“Perception and reality are two different things.” ~Anonymous
Another factor in our (lack of) ability to judge pertains to our limitations. When we judge the actions of someone, we are not passing judgment on the source of those actions.
The only place that true choice exists is within our thoughts. It is thought that creates the actions of others, and thoughts are where judgment needs to be applied. But only God (or our creator) can judge our thoughts.
So our decision-making ability is already compromised by our limited ability to make judgments.
“Judgment is the process on which perception but not knowledge rests.” ~A Course in Miracles
The 3 Main Factors that Negatively Impact Our Decision Making
1) We are unable to see the world objectively.
This is not my opinion, it is based on science. A series of experiments were conducted at John Hopkins University.
Testing the objectivity of vision
Johns Hopkins team found that it’s almost impossible for people to separate an object’s true identity from their own perspective on it.
Researchers concluded that “people cannot see the world objectively.”
All of us develop our subjective perspective of the world around us. This perspective is almost impossible to discard. Even when people are aware of this and try to see reality as it is, they struggle to get rid of their preconceived perspectives.
2) We make most decisions based on emotions.
Each of us has had enough life experiences to realize that dialog and responses that are based on emotion are among the least reliable. Yet neuroscience tells us that most of our decisions are based on emotion.
Studies have indicated that even when there is more than enough logic to make decisions, we still rely on our emotional judgment.
Decisions are largely emotional, not logical
Even with what we believe are logical decisions, the very point of choice is arguably always based on emotion.
3) We have numerous well-known biases in our decision making.
Crank up your favorite search engine and start looking for all the decision biases that we human beings have created for ourselves.
12 Common Biases That Affect How We Make Everyday Decisions
Though there are many interesting heuristics out there, this list deals exclusively with cognitive biases.
Many of these biases are well known. Check out some of them below:
Confirmation bias — Where our minds are already made up and we go find data to support our decision. And we might ignore 20 pieces of data along the way that contradicts our choice.
Dunning-Kruger Effect — When we believe that we’re very knowledgeable about a topic when in reality we know very little. And we make important decisions based on that false knowledge.
Self-Serving Bias — When we concoct logic that explains why something happened. Such as believing you failed a test because the teacher doesn’t like you. And later you pass a test under the same teacher because you studied hard.
Sunk Cost Fallacy — When we refuse to give up on a lost cause because too much money has been spent on that cause already. So we keep throwing money in the pot with the hopes of eventually recouping our losses. People go bankrupt doing this.
There are dozens of biases we use in making decisions. There are several types of confirmation bias alone.
How Can We Improve Our Decision Making?
After reading this information, it seems that the deck is stacked against us when it comes to making decisions. The next question is how to make better decisions.
You are taking the first critical step by reading this article because awareness is needed before anything else. Here are some more things you can do to overcome your bias.
Other Perspectives. Include some open-minded people in your decision. Solicit their opinions and ask for honest feedback. The approach here is that their biases and yours may differ, so each of you can see each other’s blind spots.
Who is affected? This is where you consider how your decision is going to affect other people. An approach like this gets the thoughts out of your head and into someone else’s.
Consider only the facts. Examine all the available facts and make a decision based only on those. Now compare that to other potential decisions and see how they differ.
Look for precedent. Search for examples of similar decisions that have been made in the past. You can start with personal experiences, experiences of others, and even do a Google search. Determine how this decision affected the outcome.