The Hidden Reasons Behind Your Decisions
Updated: Oct 26
As we discussed last week, our lives are overloaded with decisions that must be made. They can be as important as who to vote into public office or as minor as what to order at a restaurant.
Because decisions are such a pervasive part of our lives we can develop “decision making fatigue”. When this happens, our capacity to make sound decisions decreases.
Time, energy and the sheer volume of decisions we face impact our decision making strategy. Another thing that influences our decisions are biases.
Biases are one way our brains try to manage the number of decisions we face. Instead of giving every option equal attention, biases provide us with some short cuts.
We all have biases. Sometimes they are useful and appropriate. An expedience bias, for example, urges us to make decisions quickly. This comes in very handy if you’re in a burning building. But making a quick decision about who to hire for an essential position could lead to problems.
Psychologists have identified over 150 decision making biases. Here are just a few:
Similarity bias – Preferring what’s like us over what’s different.
Safety bias – Protecting against loss more than seeking out gain.
Sunk Cost Bias – Making choices that justify past decisions of money, time, and effort, even when evidence shows that the current costs outweigh the benefits.
Immediate Gratification – Favoring what will solve the problem most quickly rather than considering all available options.
Anchoring Effect – Attaching yourself to an initial bit of information and emphasizing that at the expense of considering other important data.
Planning Fallacy – The tendency to underestimate how long something will take and the resources it will require even when experience contradicts this.
Authority Bias – Giving more weight to the opinions of authority figures despite there being conflicting information that is more relevant to the issue you're trying to solve.
Status Quo Bias – The tendency to keep things the way they are rather than considering that better options may be available.
While these biases may make decision making more efficient, it’s easy to see how they might also lead you down the wrong path. The tricky thing is that biases tend to stay below our conscious awareness making it difficult to recognize they are playing a role in our choices.
Do you recognize any of these biases in your decision making?
Next week, we’ll discuss ways to strengthen your decision making skills. Until then, stay observant and curious about what goes through your mind when making decisions. Even if you don’t change how you go about making decisions, having greater awareness of the dynamics at play is a great first step towards fine tuning your decision making ability.