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The Psychological Process Behind the Decision Making

3 Mins read
Rachid Rouchdi

The decisions that we make have a huge effect on our daily life. It is, therefore, a topic which has been largely studied from ethological and theoretical perspectives and neuroscientists are beginning to uncover several brain areas that contribute to solving dilemmas and act upon them.

Every day, people are overwhelmed with decisions, big and small. Understanding how people make their decisions is an area of cognitive psychology that attracts attention.

Decision-making can be regarded as a problem-solving activity that produces a final choice, which sometimes might lead to take action. Having this ability to choose allows us to shape our lives exactly how we wish, but this freedom can be seen as a sacrifice as well.

Choosing or deciding about something inherently means giving up something else — something we might want tomorrow, or next week. So, how does the brain decide about a decision, and what is the systematic approach for making decisions?

How does the brain decide about a decision?

There have been many theories that explain how people make decisions, and the types of elements that influence the process of decision making.

The decisions that we make have a huge effect on our daily life. It is, therefore, a topic which has been largely studied from ethological and theoretical perspectives and neuroscientists are beginning to uncover several brain areas that contribute to solving dilemmas and act upon them.

According to the scientist Richard Montague, it seems very challenging for us and looks far for human from being able to understand the winding path from decision to action, because even most worldly decisions encompass many brain regions and collaborative interactions between many cells, and sometimes some of the decisions are so routine that you make them without giving them much thought or consideration.

Examples of everyday decisions might include choices about:

• What to eat?

• What to do?

• How to spend money, etc…

However, when you are making a choice that involves a complex issue, the brain requires problem-solving and decision-making skills together to clarify your understanding. Usually, these are the types of decisions that need a logical and ordered process:

• High-risk consequences.

• Uncertainty.

• Complexity.

• Interpersonal issues.

man standing in the middle of woods

From Decision to Action

Let’s take the example of a lighter. To determine if you want to continue flicking, you must first collect information: is there a flame or not? This will revitalize areas within the brain responsible for processing sensory information such as sight or touch. Then, you may be satisfied if you see the flame, or be surprised if you do not see it. This is because this sensory information is delivered to your reward system. In turn, the reward circuit, which releases the dopamine molecule, will help stimulate the choice of the next procedure. So, what is your next choice?

Well, if you see the flame, you can just continue pressing the button to keep it burning. But in the absence of a flame, you may begin to ask whether the movement of your finger on the spark wheel is decisive enough, or whether the lighter has run out of the gas. Front areas of the brain which are expected to manage cognitive skills such as judgment and problem-solving may help you take this uncertainty into account. Meaning if you think the lighter still contains gas, then you will try again, and you will press the button and, in this case, the frontal crust of the brain will control the choice.

A Systematic Approach for Making Decisions:

  1. Create a constructive environment.

  2. Understand the issue in detail.

  3. Gather good alternatives and available options.

  4. Explore your options.

  5. Choose the best option.

  6. Evaluate your plan.

  7. Take action.


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