Choosing and Decision-Making

Change Begins with Choice.

I recently attended Sheena Iyangar’s talk at NeuroLeadership Summit on Rethinking Leadership in Boston. Sheena is a professor at Columbia Business School and a research director at the Jerome A. Chazen Institute of Business.

Next day, I couldn’t resist buying her book The Art of Choosing as I was curious to learn more about her thoughts on the subject. Her book has made the list of finalists for the Financial Times Business Book for the year 2010. On my flight back to Seattle, I reflected on her talk and the book in relation to being human, mass communication, choosing and decision making.

Following points from her book provide a useful perspective on how we choose and decide in our personal lives and professional careers.

Emotional Memory. We tend to have better memory for things that excite our senses or appeal to our emotions than for straight facts and dry stats. Often times we hold stronger memory for things that have disappointed us in the past. In such cases we may have a bias opinion and choose poorly.

Visual Presentation. The way we frame information for ourselves or for others can make a big difference in how we see and respond to choice. Every time we encounter new information or reexamine old information, we are influenced by its presentation.

Pattern Making. Our minds automatically seek order and our tendency to establish relationships between different pieces of information play an important role in decision making. Drawing connection is vital to our reasoning ability but when we start to see patterns that don’t exist we may end up choosing poorly.

Belief System/. We embrace information that supports what we already prefer or vindicate choices we previously made. After all it feels better to justify our opinion rather than challenge them.

Informed Intuition. By combining our automatic system with reflective system, we can make snap judgments that are highly accurate. Our automatic system reacts to information and situation at hand, while our reflective system refers back to the related memories stored in our brains for analysis and reasoning.

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