decision making
Decision making is not as easy as you think

Most of the time while making a judgment on difficult questions, we follow our instincts. When deciding, our mind automatically switches questions. We answer these easier questions to take instinctive decisions.



Actions to take

  • Take advice from people while taking an important decision
  • Don’t rush on important decisions


Expanded perspective

Decision making comes naturally to us, but it is not that easy. At times we think we are in control of our decisions but our mind is in auto pilot mode. We take so many decisions every single day. Most of those decisions are simple and doesn’t really matter much. Like deciding to pick a cab instead of a car or what to wear for office.

The question becomes more difficult when you have to decide what to wear for the office party.

Let’s switch the question

We usually simplify the question by answering a different and simpler question. This question, “what to wear for the office party?” needs a lot of thinking. Things like:

What are some of the best practices for dressing for office parties?

What are the latest trends?

What others are wearing? (so you don’t feel out of place)

What style fits into your personality?

What will be your hairstyle that day and how the clothing will fit into that style?

And so on…

The way our mind goes about solving the question is by automatically switching to simpler ones, like:

What did I wear the last time?

What my best friends are wearing?

What’s the best outfit I have?

Who can help me decide?

Substitution bias

Substitution bias is a psychological process that occurs when an individual has to make a complex decision. Instead of taking the decision on the main question we substitute it with a more easily calculated question. This happens automatically in our mind without us even realizing it.

Substitution bias is the process responsible for a number of cognitive biases of the human mind. It also explains why an individual struggle to identify their own biases.

“This is the essence of intuitive heuristics: when faced with a difficult question, we often answer an easier one instead, usually without noticing the substitution,” – Daniel Kahneman, psychologist, and Nobel Prize winner.

We answer something we already know

When asked a question “Should I invest in Ford Motor Company stock?” the easier question to answer is “Do I like Ford cars?” Switching to a simpler question makes the answer more obvious and easier. So our mind avoided the important and difficult question about the stock and took a decision based on the question which didn’t require us to think much.

It’s about the questions too.

When you experience such a situation you will not be aware that you are answering the wrong question. The answers we get results in the instinctive decision making. At times these decisions are based on our biases and past experiences and that is where things can get a little misleading.

Be mindful of important decisions

While choosing the wrong outfit for the office party or wrong stock is ok, but there are many decisions which cannot go wrong. For such decisions, we need mindfulness and analytical approach. When taking big decisions you cannot solely rely on your instincts as the process is not fully in your control. Try to gain more perspective on the decision. You can do this by asking a few close people or someone who has an understanding of the subject matter. While advice from people will not be helpful every time, as they might also be driven by their instincts, but this will help you gain more insight and help you make a more educated decision.


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