If you've ever faced a complicated or major life decision, you've probably found yourself tempted to let the flip of a coin determine your fate. Fortunately, most of the decisions you make on a daily basis are relatively minor — such as whether to have a sandwich or pizza for lunch, or whether to take the bus or ride with a friend to work. For more complex decisions, there are a number of different strategies you can use to arrive at a conclusion that works best for the situation and your unique needs, interests, or desires.
The goal of all decision-making is to choose a particular course of action out of the available opportunities. In some situations, you might base your decision on a single feature of the possible options. Imagine that you are at the grocery store faced with an entire section of kitchen cleansers. Rather than spend a lot of time reviewing the different brands, you simply base your decision on the factor that is most relevant to you — the price. Another common decision-making strategy involves generating a list of features that are most important to you and then rating the relative importance of each factor. In the kitchen cleanser example, you might list qualities such as price, quantity by volume, past experience with a product, and packaging, giving each a score ranging from 5 to 0. If price is the most important factor, you might give a product a 5 for that factor, but you might also rank it low in another area. The product that ends up achieving the top score based on all of your chosen attributes would then be selected as the “best” option.
In the 1970s, a psychologist named Amos Tversky proposed the “elimination by aspects” model of decision-making. According to this theory, you often do not have time to consider and weigh all of the various attributes of each option. In this situation, you would instead start by establishing a minimum criterion that is most important to you. Then, you would systematically go through each option and immediately eliminate it if it does not meet your criteria. For example, if your primary criterion is to find a kitchen cleanser for less than $4, any option that is higher than that price point will be immediately removed as a possible option.
It is important to remember, however, that decision-making is a very complex process that becomes even more complicated based on the distinctive qualities of each situation and individuals involved. In reality, you are likely to use a wide range of strategies on a daily basis and you probably even utilize aspects of different techniques when making a single decision.