Decision Making



Hello again, Dear Reader. For this week, I will begin to discuss decision making in a series.

The art of decision making can be quite daunting for many of us. As we consider our rapidly changing environment, we witness prominent individuals making decisions that do not appear to be cogent. Indeed, we may even find ourselves in doubt about our own decision making, second guessing our choices. Clearly, powerful stressors in our world can lend to the difficulties surrounding making choices and taking action. Let’s take a closer look.



In the field of psychology, researchers have posited a variety of theories with regards to decision making. Those studies gave rise to research investigating strategies and tactics that could impact our decision making skills. But once again, we must consider environmental stressors currently at work in our world. By doing so, we can certainly understand the interest in studies acknowledging the potential impact our environment has on our decision making skills.

Lipshitz & Strauss (1997) discuss that coping with uncertainty is a natural component involved with making decisions. These authors note that we are dealing with unknown variables when we are making choices. They wrote, “Coping with uncertainty thus lies at the heart of decision making.” Clearly it follows then that when stressors accumulate and more uncertainty is present, our skill in making choices can be deleteriously impacted.

The uncertainty inherent in this second decade of the 21st century can definitely have a negative impact on our decision making. These uncertainties can render the individual anxious and undecided. Choices tend to become obscured and problematic. Therefore, decision making skills can suffer as a result.

Within the literature on decision making, ‘hesitation’ in opting for a choice was noted, and was defined as, “holding back in doubt or indecision…to pause” (Barnhart & Stein, 1964). Upon review, we can see that the concepts of uncertainty, risk and ambiguity are rife in scientific literature; indeed many researchers have studied the effects of uncertainty in making decisions  (Thompson, 1967; Corbin, 1980; Brunsson, 1985; McCaskey, 1986; Orasanu & Connolly, 1993).

Marsh (1981) described two decision making models which appear to be prominent: Consequential action and Obligatory action. Consequential actions require that the decision making process include the questions, “What are my alternatives?”, What are my values?”, and “What are the consequences of my alternatives for my values?” Obligatory action requires a different set of questions: “What kind of situation is this?”, “What kind of person am I?”, and “What is appropriate for me in a situation like this?” By answering these types of questions, some resolve may be obtained in making decisions. This type of lucid questioning can assist in the implementation of a strategic plan for making decisions.

The effects of uncertainty when taking action cannot be underestimated and may indeed prove to be deleterious to the process of decision making. When dealing with the unknown, we could reach the conclusion that all of  life is a probability statement.

In reaching this conclusion, we may better understand the impact of unknown variables in our choice of actions. We may also come to the understanding that the concepts of ‘possible’ and ‘probable’ are very different. By considering these notions, individuals can subsequently create new working constructs. Ultimately, this adaptation  could entail the creation of a superordinate construct in which the consideration of probabilities can provide clarity to our every day decision making.




Clearly, researchers have acknowledged the impact of ambiguity on decision making. In fact, some research focuses entirely upon one’s tolerance for ambiguity and the implications of that tolerance. Thus, with regards to decision making, stressors in the environment can indeed play a key role in efficacy of decision making. By defining some of these stressors, we can begin to gain self awareness and knowledge with regards to how we make decisions. This metacognition (thinking about our own thinking) can facilitate our understanding of our actions/choices, ultimately improving our decision making skills.


For next time, we will review some strategies and tactics proposed by researchers that can facilitate decision making skills. Until then, Dear Reader, please feel free to leave any questions or comments you may have and I will respond to those as I see them. Stay safe, healthy and positive.






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Abuh Monday Eneojo (@mondaydpoet)
1 year ago

Hello Dr,
I’d love to more about the the stressors.

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