A Framework on Decision-Making

March 3, 2008

To some extent, this blog exists to give me an opportunity to be pedantic. Still, it is not in that spirit that I create the following model of decision-making behavior, but rather in the hope of untangling some of the problems in my preceding discussion of rationality and decision-making. In other words, I want to be sure that, if there is some variable I am ignoring in this discussion, we have a defined category in which to place it. In what follows, I’ll be walking a fine line between helpfully defining my position and just being annoying:

How to make a decision:

I. Identify possible choices
II. Estimate outcomes associated with those choices

A. Hedonic effects

Straight-up physical pleasure or pain.

B. Social effects

Reputation can be valued for its own sake. Also, there are hedonic rewards that can be described as a function of reputation. If people think well of you, they are more likely to give you good treatment, leading to increased pleasure.

C. Moral effects

On a personal basis, the pain of a nagging conscience or the pleasure of feeling like you’ve “done the right thing”

D. Each of the above effects can be divided into short-term and long-term effects, so that e.g. The possibility of developing lung cancer from smoking would be part of A as well

III. Interpret results and make a decision
IV. Act in accordance with the decision


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