Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Decision making systems


You can define decision-making systems as ”A set of principles or procedures for the action or process of making a resolution or conclusion.” You can also define them as ”A set of principles or procedures for the thought process of selecting a logical choice from the available options.”

Human decision making systems

I will only concentrate on the individual´s point of view in human decision making systems in this text. There is no reason why you shouldn´t use any other tools than your brains while making the decisions. For making things easier, you should separate your own decision making systems into two parts: Intuitive and Rational systems. These systems really work together and both of them are always on, but it is easier to think them as separate systems. Intuitive system works faster and rational system slower.


You see a flying object getting closer to us and you decide to dodge it or you see a beautiful lady watching you and decide to talk to her. Your intuitive systems is working. You are thinking about bying a car and you first look for the information about different cars and then make a decision to buy one of them. Now your rational system is working.

Intuitive system

This system is based on emotion and impulse. It represents your wants, impulses and gut instincts. It is always on, but your rational system sometimes overrides it. Intuitive system makes the decisions when you are tired and unable to think rationally. It works fast and most of the time you don´t even notice it. Fast response was thousands of years ago a requirement for survival. This system also saves lots of energy. Without it, we couldn´t get many things done. Most of the decisions are made by this system. It influences how you see the world around us: recognizing objects, deciding where you keep your attention, helping you avoid losses, and decides how to react in dangerous situations.

It also has some learned associations and biases. It sees some clues from the environment and makes predictable errors because of them. For example, when choosing a restaurant to eat, you tend to follow the crowd without noticing and choose the place to eat with the longest queues. When this system cannot decide, it asks rational system to take control. When the rational system is busy or exhausted, it has more power in our behaviour.

Rational system

Rational system is normally in the background while intuitive system is working. This system thinks it is the decision maker, but most often time, it is just monitoring your actions. You need this system to make decisions in complex situations or making complex calculations like deciding whether you should change a job or not or think about how much you should pay for an apartment. This system is always monitoring you. And it is working only when needed. It normally has the last word, but it gets exhausted. It normally controls your willpower, but when it is exhausted, your intuitive system takes control and you cannot think and make decisions rationally. This normally happens when you have made many decisions during the day or haven´t slept enough. Sleeping enough and keeping your blood glucose level stable helps you to make rational decisions.

Systems working together

These systems work together. Most often, your intuitive system makes the decisions. It also creates impressions and feelings for the rational system. They are the main sources for the explicit beliefs and deliberate choices of the rational system. Only the rational system can change how your intuitive system works. You need to rewire your brain to make changes by programming the automatic and intuitive functions of attention and memory. This cannot be achieved without the rational system. You need to have a lot of conscious effort to change yourself. Changing your habits, improving your skills, and many other things cannot be done without lots of repetition. Your conscious system is in power until you have repeated the action hundreds or thousands of times. You need your rational system to teach your intuitive system work better. You have your paths of least resistance. Which is normally the intuitive system. You get better results and better skills, when your intuitive systems works better. This is the result of your rational system working better.

You need to use both of our systems to achieve a skill level of an expert. Without enough repetitive conscious thoughts or actions you cannot achieve a level where you can use your intuitive system to react whatever the impulses it receives from the environment. For example, a chess master has thought about some positions on the board in advance or played similar games to find a best possible next move. Then he can intuitively make a decision without using any time to think. Thus, it saves a limited time to complete the game. In most of the physical actions, the speed is one thing that separates an expert from a novice. The other is the quality of the actions. You cannot have better quality of actions without having better mental models learned through rational thinking. When you combine the fast speed and the quality high quality of physical actions you get real expertise.


Thinking Fast and Slow, Daniel Kahneman
Peak, Anders Ericsson
Predictably Irrational, Dan Ariely

Until next week,


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