Are we in control of our own decisions

Oluwaseun Macaulay Written by Oluwaseun Macaulay · 2 min read >

Our orientation (the way we look at it) on a subject, can play a big role on how we view it and understand it, or the conclusions we can end with. This affects the decisions we make in regards to those subjects.

We can take advantage of this in how we frame our questions. A question that states that we should tick a box to make a choice and another question that states we shouldn’t tick a box to make the same earlier decision. The two questions asked the same thing but framed the questions differently would result in different outcomes. To the viewers of the question, they may have made the decision on whether or not to tick the box but ticking the box but the real decision is a bit more than that.

So, what you think may have happened here is that they are simply deciding on ticking or not ticking, to show what decision they have made but the real decision is for them to agree with whatever decision we chose for them. The underlining factor here is that this phenomenon is somewhat straight forward, the subject of the decision is clear, difficult and complex and more people tend to take the decision made for them when they are having issues in coming to a conclusion / decision for themselves. We want them to agree to something, and we have told them “Tick the box if you disagree”, which is the alternative to the decision which we’ve already made. We basically framed the question in a way in-which, the favourable decision for us is the one we have made for them.

This can be termed as irrational decision making. If we set the two options out in the open, chances are that the percentage of the people who pick our favourable decision would reduce. Now, they have a clear view of what is going on and the decision is not as complex. Whereas, in the earlier scenario, there was a default decision and now their decision is to go against the “status quo” and pick something else. It is really not as straightforward anymore; your brain may start thinking of inconsequential things that should have no real impact on the decision made. You become irrational.

Now lets look at another scenario showcasing irrational decision making. We have three options, option 1 is jollof and chicken, option two is eba and egusi with fish, with these two options, you could say they are even trade-offs where it’s mostly the viewers preference in play. Most people prefer one or the other but now, I will add option 3 which is jollof, chicken and plantain. Automatically, option 3 becomes more valued than option 1, due to option 3 being exactly the same as option 1 but with an added benefit in the presence of plantain.

The earlier is a pretty rational decision but the irrational decision manifests itself when people move their choice from option 2 to 3. Lest we forget, the preference between jollof and eba and egusi was evenly split but the introduction of options 3 has created a skewed view. Because jollof with plantain is now perceived to have a higher value or they feel that they would be missing out on a good deal because of the addition of plantain.

In another scenario, if we had just options 2 and 3, it would also be split evenly between jollof and eba and egusi, just to show that the sample spaces inherent preferences have not changed. Simply presenting individuals with 3 options with one of the three being a lesser version of one of the other two options, would drive the individual to go for the better version, even at the detriment of their own personal preferences. Irrational decision making strikes again.

This phenomenon manifests itself in many ways so it’s profitable to understand its inner workings.


Ibukun Adenuga in General
  ·   1 min read

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.