How people really make decisions - a thought piece

I have been observing how people make decisions. One observation that fascinated me was how intertwined emotion and cognition are. I am really interested in  how different stages of the decision elicit different emotions.
 
Here are some examples.
 
 
 
 

When you have no idea what to do


When making a brand new decision like buying their first home some people stall at a 'I have no idea what to do' stage. They procrastinate because they lack knowledge and as a result feel lost and frustrated because they have not made progress. 

When you know a bit

 
People who know something about the product or service - even if not much -  feel differently. The process of seeking out options and information means that the person is learning all the time and as knowledge evolves may seesaw between wanting one thing and wanting another. One day the location of the new home is the most important attribute; the next it is the layout. This can be a confusing time, when ignorance, knowledge and good intentions co exist.
 

When you acted in haste

 
Ideally, the next stage after 'knowing a bit' should be 'knowing a lot' but that is not always what happens. Sometimes, the desire to be less confused triggers a sudden burst of activity. (We like to think that people buy because they have evaluated product features, but sometimes they buy because they want to stop thinking about it.) This 'I acted without thinking and am now working it out as I go along' stage' can lead to either commitment or regret.
 
The point of this short article is to highlight ways in which researchers can think differently about how people make decisions. Our insights come from our sense-making perspective. Learn more about our sense-making research.

Tags: Behavioural Economics, Making sense, sense-making, Decision Making

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