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The Psychology of Judgment and Decision Making

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The Psychology of Judgment and Decision Making


15 min read
10 take-aways
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What's inside?

People’s minds fall in all kinds of traps: Here’s how to know where you are going wrong.

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  • Analytical
  • Scientific
  • Background


Making the right decisions is seldom easy. Situations change and choices confound. Faulty perceptions and biases can block clear thinking and undermine the ability to weigh alternatives rationally. As U.S. Supreme Court Justice Benjamin N. Cardozo explained 90 years ago, “We may try to see things as objectively as we please. Nonetheless, we can never see them with any eyes except our own.” This is the vexing paradox involved in making decisions: People who are in the process of deciding cannot always trust their own perceptions and thought processes. Psychologist Scott Plous, winner of numerous awards and honors, examines decision making in this rigorously scientific yet mostly accessible book, itself an award winner. getAbstract believes it will interest decision analysts, researchers, psychologists and strategists, as well as readers who want to know why they may make poor decisions and how to make better ones.


It’s All About Context

Tens of thousands of choices, from hundreds of supermarket products to dozens of TV shows, challenge modern consumers. How do they handle decisions on these and life’s other options? Based on a wide variety of experiments and studies, psychology researchers have reached some scientific conclusions that can help you make better decisions. First, understand that every decision completely depends on context, which influences how you see the factors you must weigh. A famous experiment indicates that “selective perception” often colors people’s judgments. In it, a machine quickly flashes pictures of five playing cards: the five, three and ace of hearts and the five and seven of spades. Researchers ask viewers if any card seems odd. Although the normally red heart on the three of hearts is black, most people see nothing strange, due entirely to context and selective perception.

Related judgment problems stem from the general human inclination to avoid “cognitive dissonance,” or “psychological inconsistencies.” This parable explains: A gang of young hooligans gathered in front of a Jewish tailor’s shop yelling, “Jew! Jew!” The first day this happened...

About the Author

Psychologist Scott Plous, Ph.D., a business and political consultant, teaches psychology at Wesleyan University in Connecticut. Winner of a MacArthur Foundation “genius” grant, he has studied the psychology of the nuclear arms race, and ethical issues about animals and ecology.

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