Social Science - Other

Factors that Affect Decision Making

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When we make decisions, there are many things that influence how we decide on one thing over one or more others. Even in those people who appear to make split-second decisions with no forethought at all, there are still influences at work on their choices. Everyone will be affected by one or more of the main factors, with each decision they make.

The act of making a decision is centred around answering a question. The question may be made of of several parts, or even sub-questions. It may not end in a simple yes/no answer. But the only way to reach a decision is to weigh up all the possibilities and pick an outcome that best suits you.


Most decisions are made based on the benefits (whether real or perceived) to the individual making the choice. These can be very basic, such as do I eat now or not. They can also be extremely complex and involve many other variables, such as if I wear this shirt today and my colleague wears the one he wore yesterday, will I be more or less likely to impress our boss.

A benefit is something that is to the advantage of the decision maker. The advantage could be immediate (if I eat now, I wont be hungry), or it may take longer to come to fruition. It may also depend on variables, but in making the decision you are setting the chain of events in motion in a positive way for your own best outcome.

Another benefit that may guide a decision, is to prevent something bad from happening. Rather than causing something good, maintaining the status quo by the decision you make is also a strongly influential benefit. However, doing nothing all the time appears to have more negative outcomes than being otherwise pro-active.


Getting a benefit from a decision is not the same as feeling as if there was some benefit to the choice you made. Perception is the act of feeling or thinking something, even when it is not materially true.

Perception can have an effect on an individual's overall attitude and character. If someone perceives that they always get less than everyone else, it may make them aim lower overall in their wished-for benefits. Equally, it may make them make more rash decisions in their desire to gain more than they would normally settle for or expect.

Decision making based on perception can also include other people without them knowing. If you have ever asked yourself “what would they think of me if I ...” then you have based your decision to do or not to do a certain thing, based on how you perceive others will react or respond. While you may feel that you know without any doubt how someone else will react, you can never be that certain.


While trying to second guess others in order to make your decisions is rarely wise, there are other influences that we take on board as we grow up which do have some affect on how we make decisions. Our parents, caregivers and immediate family has its own social dynamic. This will usually influence the decision process for those younger members as they develop their own personalities.

If a family all take their time over decisions and try to gather lots of relevant information before deciding, then it is likely that this behaviour will be encouraged in any child of the family. Making a rash decision is likely to receive less praise, despite any benefits of the outcome.

Depending on the underlying personality of the individual, this will either serve to enforce the slow methodical approach, or it will cause tension and arguments as the two systems of decision making constantly jar with each other.

We make decisions every day, and often frequently throughout each day. The factors that affect how we make those decisions are based on the knowledge that we do not operate in isolation from everyone around us. Even when we make a decision for ourselves, the outcome will have an impact somewhere else. Making decisions is a social activity.

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