Are Your Decisions Really Rational?

Many of us pride ourselves on our ability to think analytically. We like to feel as though we are making decisions that are fully informed, and so we tend to do lots of research and collect loads of data and facts before we make a decision.

Others prefer to use skills that are derived more from their level of emotional intelligence, such as empathy and intuition, when they make an important decision. These folks prefer to think in a non-linear fashion and go with their gut. These individuals may be passionate and spontaneous as well.

Regardless of which “school of thought” you subscribe to, it’s likely that you believe that all of your decisions are fully rational and well-thought out. Whether you prefer the proverbial cold hard facts, or if there’s a method to your madness that’s known only to you, you are probably convinced that all of your decisions are completely rational. Except, the latest research shows that whether you approach a problem using logic or feelings first, your decisions really aren’t that rational. Nearly all of us have certain blind spots, or cognitive biases, when it comes time to make a decision.

Shining a Light on the Effects of Bias in the Decision Making Process

According to a recent article in Business Insider, there are over 20 forms of cognitive bias that can affect our ability to make decisions that are in our best interests. Bias can creep in and affect our ability to make sound judgments even when we rely on facts and figures to make our decision. A few of the most common types of bias that effect our ability to collect or interpret data in an impartial manner include anchoring, choice-supportive, conservatism and information bias.

With an anchoring bias, we tend to place too much importance on the first bit of information or data that we receive. This error in logic can be further compounded when we exhibit choice-supportive bias and continue to rely only on information that confirms our initial impression. With conservatism, we tend to place greater trust in the first set of data that we received and with information bias we tend to put off making a decision in favour of gathering more and more information.

While these types of bias tend to creep into our judgment making processes when we rely on data and information to make our decisions, judgments based on our emotions and “gut reactions” can also fall prey to bias. Examples of types of bias that can result from overreliance on our emotions include overconfidence, zero-risk bias and stereotyping.

In general, most of us have a hard time judging our own abilities in several areas. We tend to think highly of ourselves and so we overestimate our capabilities and competence. This overconfidence bias can lead us to make irrational decisions that affect both ourselves and others. When we allow our emotions to lead, we may also fall prey to judging groups of people based on the historical actions of a few members of a group and so miss out on opportunities because of stereotyping. In zero-risk bias, opportunities for growth can also be missed when our emotional need for safety and security leads us to make choices that we believe have little to no risk.

Learning to eliminate bias from your decision-making process is a skill like any other. With direction and practice, you can improve your ability to make sound and impartial choices that will be in the best interests of you and your company. Contact us today to learn more about how to improve your decision-making ability and other key leadership skills that are critical to your success.

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