Making Decisions

Mike Mayer
Mike Mayer
August 1, 2020

Making decisions is a very complicated procedure, and requires the consideration of many different factors. A major factor is a person's perception. A person does not come to a decision by it simply popping up in their mind. Instead, decisions are constructed on perceptions, which are essentially shortcuts which are used when judging situations and information, which shape decisions, especially when they are of an ethical and moral nature.

One of the most effective ways for an individual's perception (and hence decision making) to make a mark upon the behavior of an organization, is by using selective perception, whereby the person in question makes perceptive shortcuts, ignoring certain information which they believe is not relevant (Wikipedia, 2006). This can be viewed as positive or negative. For example, an individual who believes that environmental concern is simply the result of overblown activism and lobbying of ecological organizations may be more incline to make decisions that do not consider environmental impacts. Selective perception in this case can be seen as wishful thinking, where someone only wants to see the positives and not the negatives, which can alter other peoples' perceptions through interaction (Wikipedia, 2006).

When it comes to making judgments about others, many people a prone to these perceptive shortcuts, which for example will make a decision based on a verdict without properly considering the background of the person being judged. This can happen in many circumstances, such as a job interview, where the candidate may be judged based on their association with other potential employees being interviewed. For example, if one person from a certain background and locality does not perform and is fired, then a new candidate who has a similar background and locality may be disregarded to the judgment of similarity between the two. The same goes for positive performance also.

The idea of perception can be classed into three separate factors - the target, the perceiver, and the situation (University of Washington). Perceptive shortcuts can include projection, the contrast effect, stereotyping, the halo effect, and selective perception (University of Washington). The above case mentioned exemplifies the shortcut of projection, where one person is judged due to the performance of someone of a similar background, even if these two people have little in common. Stereotyping as similar to projection but at a much larger scope, and occurs when pre-formed templates are applied to all the descriptive of a given individual, such as faith, ethnicity, nationality, race etc. The halo effect is when a good quality of a person (predominantly characterized by physical attractiveness, or previous achievement) puts a positive bias on other traits of the person that are unrelated to this quality. The contrast effect is when one person is made to look better in comparison to another person who is lacking in similar qualities. This is analogous to saying that a student who gets 50% in a paper does very well if all the other students get 40% for the same paper, even though the result is technically average.

The problem with these perceptive shortcuts is that they are often detrimental. It does not matter whether the generalization or bias is positive or negative, the inaccurate evaluation of a person due to perceptive shortcuts can reduce effectiveness of decision makers, and their ability to deal with reality and make the best decisions based on this reality. Instead of perceptive shortcuts, good decision making should be the result of implementing rational models, which involve adequate evaluation, which a clear and objective criterion for the assessment of any decisions that are made, and end in a rational set of objectives that lead from this criteria. There are benefits to perceptive shortcuts, such as time saving, and if on quick instinct can still be a correct choice and quick at the same time. Usually however, speed comes at the expense of the best and most well informed decision.

For organizations in the real world, decisions are made by people who have experience in doing so, and whose activities are still characterized by the heavy use of perception. We can see this with an example of an individual wanting a new program to be approved so that a present problem can be solved. Solving the problem means coming up with a convincing proposition that holds merit and value, but the proposition will not be a success unless the person making the decision really perceives the nature of the problem. For example, a company will not go ahead with a new IT system which improves data processing, unless the current system can be found to be suitably inadequate. Dove also states that people are not very willing to go outside of their comfort zone, or to adopt radically new strategies when it comes to new alternatives. This behavior will always limit the options available for improving situations and solving issues.

Ethical decision making is also at the mercy of perception. While organizations try to adhere to a strict Code of Ethics, the fact remains that most day to day decisions are made so on an entirely subjective basis, which a hard to codify when you take more than one person into account. For example, a manager who hates discrimination in eh workplace may be more incline to promote people from ethnic minorities, and a Christian publishing house may have members who strongly resist capricious content in new publications. As such, our ethical principles will also have a very large influence on what we think is right and wrong, which can be a detriment to embracing new ideas and policies.

Perception is the foundation for decision making. It represents in no small way the subjective and irrational consciousness of man, which can either be a compliment to rational models, or a detriment. While there has been extensive effort to make decisions with an objective and specific criteria, human perception will always have a marked effect on the process of decision making. What is crucial is that we understand our own perceptive mechanism, to help avoid the pitfalls of the process.


Dove, R. (n.d.). Value Propositioning: Perception and Misperception in Decision Making

Washington University. (n.d.). Perception and Individual Decision Making

Wikipedia. (2006). Decision-making