Choice consists of the mental process of judging the merits of multiple options and selecting one of them. While a choice can be made between imagined options ("what would I do if ...?"), often a choice is made between real options, and followed by the corresponding action. For example, a route for a journey is chosen based on the preference of arriving at a given destination as soon as possible. The preferred (and therefore chosen) route is then derived from information about how long each of the possible routes take. This can be done by a route planner. If the preference is more complex, such as involving the scenery of the route, cognition and feeling are more intertwined, and the choice is less easy to delegate to a computer program or assistant.
More complex examples (often decisions that affect what a person thinks or their core beliefs) include choosing a lifestyle, religious affiliation, or political position.
Most people regard having choices as a good thing, though a severely limited or artificially restricted choice can lead to discomfort with choosing and possibly, an unsatisfactory outcome. In contrast, unlimited choice may lead to confusion, regret of the alternatives not taken, and indifference in an unstructured existence; and the illusion that choosing an object or a course leads necessarily to control of that object or course can cause psychological problems.
Types of choices
- Command decisions, which can only be made by you, as the "Commander in Chief"; or owner of a company.
- Delegated decisions, which may be made by anyone, such as the color of the bike shed, and should be delegated, as the decision must be made but the choice is inconsequential.
- Avoided decisions, where the outcome could be so severe that the choice should not be made, as the consequences can not be recovered from if the wrong choice is made. This will most likely result in negative actions, such as death.
- "No-brainer" decisions, where the choice is so obvious that only one choice can reasonably be made.
A fifth type, however, or fourth if three and four are combined as one type, is the collaborative decision, which should be made in consultation with, and by agreement of others. Collaborative Decision Making revolutionized air-traffic safety by not deferring to the captain when a lesser crew member becomes aware of a problem.
Another way of looking at decisions focuses on the thought mechanism used, is the decision:
- Recognition based
Recognizing that "type" is an imprecise term, an alternate way to classify types of choices is to look at outcomes and the impacted entity. For example, using this approach three types of choices would be:
In this approach, establishing the types of choices makes it possible to identify the related decisions that will influence and constrain a specific choice as well as be influenced and constrained by another choice.
There are many "executive decision maker" products available, such as the decision wheels and the Magic 8-Ball, which randomly produce yes/no or other "decisions" for someone who can not make up their mind or just wants to delegate.
A Ouija board is also a delegated decision.
As a moral principle, decisions should be made by those most affected by the decision, but this is not normally applied to persons in jail, who might likely make a decision other than to remain in jail. Robert Gates cited this principle in allowing photographs of returning war dead.
Choice and evaluability in economics
When choosing between options one must make judgments about the quality of each option's attributes. For example, if one is choosing between candidates for a job, the quality of relevant attributes such as previous work experience, college or high school GPA, and letters of recommendation will be judged for each option and the decision will likely be based on these attribute judgments. However, each attribute has a different level of evaluability, that is, the extent to which one can use information from that attribute to make a judgment.
An example of a highly evaluable attribute is SAT score. Everyone knows that an SAT score below 800 is very bad while an SAT score above 1500 is exceptionally good. Because the distribution of scores on this attribute is relatively well known it is a highly evaluable attribute. Compare SAT score to a poorly evaluable attribute, such as number of hours spent doing homework. Most employers would not know what 10,000 hours spent doing homework means because they have no idea of the distribution of scores of potential workers in the population on this attribute.
As a result, evaluability can cause preference reversals between joint and separate evaluations. For example, Hsee, George Loewenstein, Blount & Bazerman (1999) looked at how people choose between options when they are directly compared because they are presented at the same time or when they cannot be compared because one is only given a single option. The canonical example is a hiring decision made about two candidates being hired for a programming job. Subjects in an experiment were asked to give a starting salary to two candidates, Candidate J and Candidate S. However, some viewed both candidates at the same time (joint evaluation), whereas others only viewed one candidate (separate evaluation). Candidate J had experience of 70 KY programs, and a GPA of 2.5, whereas Candidate S had experience of 10 KY programs and a GPA of 3.9. The results showed that in joint evaluation both candidates received roughly the same starting salary from subjects, who apparently thought a low GPA but high experience was approximately equal to a high GPA but low experience. However, in the separate evaluation, subjects paid Candidate S, the one with the high GPA, substantially more money. The explanation for this is that KY programs is an attribute that is difficult to evaluate and thus people cannot base their judgment on this attribute in separate evaluation.
Personal factors determine food choice. They are preference, associations, habits, ethnic heritage, tradition, values, social pressure, emotional comfort, availability, convenience, economy, image, medical conditions, and nutrition.
Choice and choice set size
A number of research studies in economic psychology have focused on how individual behavior differs when the choice set size (the number of choices to choose from) is low versus when it is high. Of particular interest is whether individuals are more likely to purchase a product from a large versus a small choice set. Currently, the effect of choice set size on the probability of a purchase is unclear. In some cases, large choice set sizes discourages individuals from making a choice and in other cases it either encourages them or has no effect.
There is unambiguous evidence that while greater choice has the potential to improve a person's welfare, there is such a thing as too much choice. For example, in one experiment involving a choice of free soda, individuals explicitly requested to choose from six as opposed to 24 sodas, where the only benefit from the smaller choice set would be to reduce the cognitive burden of the choice. Attempts to explain why choice can demotivate someone from a purchase have focuses on two factors. One assumes that perusing a larger number of choices imposes a cognitive burden on the individual. The other assumes that individuals can experience regret if they make a suboptimal choice, and sometimes avoid making a choice to avoid experiencing regret.
Individual personality plays a significant role in how individuals deal with large choice set sizes. Psychologists have developed a personality test that determines where an individual lies on the satisficer-maximizer spectrum. A maximizer is one who always seeks the very best option from a choice set, and may anguish after the choice is made as to whether it was indeed the best. Satisficers may set high standards but are content with a good choice, and place less priority on making the best choice. Due to this different approach to decision-making, maximizers are more likely to avoid making a choice when the choice set size is large, probably to avoid the anguish associated with not knowing whether their choice was optimal.
Maximizers are less happy in life, perhaps due to their obsession with making optimal choices in a society where people are frequently confronted with choice. On the other hand, people who refrain from taking better choices through drugs or other forms of escapism tend to be much happier in life. Others argue, that there is never too much choice and that there is a difference between happiness and satisfaction: a person who tries to find more optimal decisions will often be dissatisfied, but not necessarily unhappy since his attempts at finding better choices did improve his lifestyle (even if it wasn't the best decision he will continually try to incrementally improve the decisions he takes).
- law: the age at which children or young adults can make meaningful and considered choices poses issues for ethics and for jurisprudence.
- psychology: see choice theory
- mathematics: the binomial coefficient is also known as the choice function.
- politics: a political movement in the United States and United Kingdom which favors the legal availability of abortion calls itself "pro-choice".
- New Zealand English: slang synonym for "cool", "nice" or "good". "That's choice!"
- Choice architecture
- Decision making software
- Example Choice
- Hobson's choice
- Neuroscience of free will
- public choice theory, social choice theory
- Sudbury Valley School
- The Paradox of Choice: Why More Is Less (book)
- Will (philosophy)
- List of thinking-related topics
- ^ Time Power, Brian Tracy, 2007, pg. 153 ISBN 0814474705
- ^ Collaborative Decision Making
- ^ Types Of Decision Making
- ^ Distinctions related to types of decision making
- ^ Decision Wheels
- ^ [Ethical leadership in schools, Kenneth A. Strike, 2006, pg. 5 ISBN 1412913519]
- ^ Pentagon ends photo ban on war dead return
- ^ Hsee, C.K., Loewenstein, G.F., Blount, S., Bazerman, M.H. (1999). Preference reversals between joint and separate evaluations of option: A review and theoretical analysis. Psychological Bulletin 125(5), 576–590.
- ^ Iyengar and Lepper.
- ^ Norwood, Lusk, Arunachalam, and Henneberry.
- ^ Norwood, Lusk, Arunachalam, and Henneberry.
- ^ Norwood
- ^ Irons and Hepburn.
- ^ Norwood, Lusk, Arunachalam, and Henneberry.
- ^ Schwartz, Barry
- Barry Schwartz (2005). The Paradox of Choice: why more is less. Harper Perennial. ISBN 978-0060005696.
- Rosenthal, Edward C. (2006). The Era of Choice: The Ability to Choose and Its Transformation of Contemporary Life. MIT Press. ISBN 0-262-68165-X.
- Daniel Kahneman (Editor), Amos Tversky (Editor) (1999). Choices, Values, and Frames. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 978-0521627498.
- Hsee, C.K., Loewenstein, G.F., Blount, S., Bazerman, M.H. (1999). Preference reversals between joint and separate evaluations of option: A review and theoretical analysis. Psychological Bulletin 125(5), 576–590.
- Irons, B. and C. Hepburn. 2007. "Regret Theory and the Tyranny of Choice." The Economic Record. 83(261): 191–203.
- Iyengar, S.S. and M.R. Lepper. 2000. "When Choice is Demotivating: Can One Desire Too Much of a Good Thing?" Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. 70(6): 996–1006.
- Norwood, F. 2006. "Less Choice is Better, Sometimes." Journal of Agricultural and Food Industrial Organization. 4(1). Article 3.
- Norwood, F. Bailey, Jayson L. Lusk, Bharath Arunachalam, and Shida Rastegari Henneberry. "An Empirical Investigation Into the Excessive-Choice Effect." American Journal of Agricultural Economics. Forthcoming.
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