Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Decision making systems


We can define decision-making systems as ”A set of principles or procedures for the action or process of making a resolution or conclusion.” We 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 we shouldn´t use any other tools than our brains while making the decisions. For making things easier, we should separate our 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.


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

Intuitive system

This system is based on emotion and impulse. It represents our wants, impulses and gut instincts. It is always on, but our rational system sometimes overrides it. Intuitive system makes the decisions when we are tired and unable to think rationally. It works fast and most of the time we 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 we see the world around us: recognizing objects, deciding where we keep our attention, helping us 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, we 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 of the time, it is just monitoring our actions. We need this system to make decisions in complex situations or making complex calculations like deciding whether we should change a job or not or think about how much we should pay for an apartment. This system is always monitoring us. And it is working only when needed. It normally has the last word, but this system gets exhausted. It normally controls our willpower, but when it is exhausted, our intuitive system takes control and we cannot think and make decisions rationally. This normally happens when we have made many decisions during the day or we haven´t slept enough. Sleeping enough and keeping our blood glucose level stable helps us making rational decisions.

Systems working together

These systems work together. Most of the time our 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 our intuitive system works. We need to rewire our brains to make changes by programming the automatic and intuitive functions of attention and memory. This cannot be achieved without the rational system. We need to have a lot of conscious effort to change ourselves. Changing our habits, improving our skills, and many other things cannot be done without lots of repetition. Our conscious system is in power until we have repeated the action hundreds or thousands of times. We need our rational system teach our intuitive system work better. We all have our paths of least resistance. Which is normally the intuitive system. We get better results and better skills, when our intuitive systems works better. This is the result of our rational system working better.

We need to use both of our systems to achieve a skill level of an expert. Without enough repetitive conscious thoughts or actions we cannot achieve a level where we can use our 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. We cannot have better quality of actions without having better mental models learned through rational thinking. When we combine the fast speed and the quality high quality of physical actions we get real expertise.


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

Until next week,


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