Judgment call: everyone benefits when decision making is improved

Time to address bad decision making

In a recently published paper, experts in decision making Dolly Chugh, Katherine L. Milkman, and Max Bazerman asked an important question, “How Can Decision Making Be Improved?” (PDF):

We propose that the time has come to move the study of biases in judgment and decision making beyond description and toward the development of improvement strategies. While a few important insights about how to improve decision making have already been identified, we argue that many others await discovery. We hope judgment and decision-making scholars will focus their attention on the search for improvement strategies in the coming years, seeking to answer the question: how can we improve decision making?

They explained why the question matters, particularly today:

Errors are costly: We believe the importance of this question is somewhat self evident: decisions shape important outcomes for individuals, families, businesses, governments, and societies, and if we knew more about how to improve those outcomes, individuals, families, businesses, governments, and societies would benefit. After all, errors induced by biases in judgment lead decision makers to undersave for retirement, engage in needless conflict, marry the wrong partners, accept the wrong jobs, and wrongly invade countries.

(And, dare I say, make poor choices in the voting booth.)

Although the development of strategies to combat poor decision making won’t come in time for this election (or to undo the subprime mortgage crisis), this is an encouraging step forward. I can only hope that experts in behavioral decision making answer the challenge — and that the public actually pays attention when they do.

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