We all make decisions every day. I started out my day deciding what to wear, following by a decision of what to write about for this morning’s blog post. Most decisions are small and likely have insignificant consequences, but even small decisions can have a large cumulative effect. Some decisions are huge and can have dramatic effects on the course of our lives or the lives of others. Studying human decision-making, therefore, seems to be a useful endeavor, one likely to have implications for critical thinking.
The current dominant model of decision making is the so-called dual-process approach. Decision-making is seen as coming in two flavors: intuitive-affective, or system I, decision-making is based upon our “gut-feelings”, while analytical system II processing is based upon careful analysis. There are advantages and disadvantages to both, and researchers are busy trying to sort out which approach is superior in which circumstances.
Intuitive decision-making has the advantage of being quick. We get an overall feeling for a situation, based upon evolved emotions and heuristics and modified by our own experiences, and can act quickly on such feelings. The disadvantage of this approach is that it is highly susceptible to bias and may not properly weigh important details. The analytic approach has the advantage of being detail-oriented, logical, and quantitative and can be highly evidence-based, given a statistically accurate weight to each factor considered. The analytic approach is specifically designed to weed out bias and faulty thinking. The disadvantage of the analytic approach is that it is time and effort intensive, and it is only as good as the evidence that feeds into it.