Decision Making

By Brad Bell

 Decisions can vary from simple judgments about what to order at a restaurant to complex decisions such as a career change.  What is decision making?  Decision making is an important concept in psychology.  Below is one definition of decision making:

Decision Making Definition:

Decision making is the process of selecting among alternatives in making decisions.

Decision Making Examples:

1. Imagine that you received your B.A. degree three months ago and you received three job offers.  The pay is fairly good for all three full-time jobs.  However, there are different pros and cons for each job.  Thus, your decision about which job offer to accept is difficult.

2. Imagine that you have received several letters from nonprofits asking for donations.  However, you can afford to only make one small donation.  Thus, you must decide which of these nonprofits you will make donation to.

Modes of Decision Making:

In this article, I describe three modes of decision making. This is not necessarily a complete list of modes of decision making, and decisions might involve more than one mode.

Analytical Decision Making.    A common approach to decision making may be the analytical approach. The analytical decision making approach involves logical reasoning.  A good example of the analytical approach is to list the pros and cons of each decision option, and then decide which option is best based on an evaluation of the pros and cons for each option.   For example, imagine that you have two job offers.  You list the pros and cons for each job.   One job has more pay and vacation time, but you feel there will be more micromanagement and job stress. The other job has less pay, but the job seems to be less stressful and you can be highly creative. You could assess which job seems to be more positive taking into account all of the positive and negative aspects of each job.

Intuitive Decision Making.   With respect to decision making involves making a decision based on a gut feeling rather than a logical analysis.   You may have a strong feeling about a decision even though you cannot explain why.   For example, imagine that you had a job interview, and you got an uneasy feeling about the company but you cannot explain why.   You received a job offer a few days later.   Based on your feeling during the interview, you decide to not accept the job offer.

 Experiential Decision Making.    One type of decision making may involve imagining what how one may feel for one or more decision options. I call this experiential decision making.    For example, imagine that you have the opportunity to accept a new job at another company.   You imagine how you may feel in your new job.   You may experience joy in the new job due to being able to be creative.   On the other hand, you may also feel regret due to having to move to a new city.   You could assess whether accepting the new job or remaining in your current job would result in greater happiness.

The Influence of Saying “Like” and “Uh” on Simulated Hiring Decisions

By Brad Bell

During an interview it may be wise to select one’s words carefully, and sound as professional as possible.  Using unnecessary and annoying words such as “like” and “uh” might affect how professional you are perceived to be.  Consequently, the use of these words might decrease the likelihood that you will be hired.

Russell, Perkins, and Grinnell (2008) had participants in their study listen to an audiotape of a person who simulated a person applying for a data entry job. They also received a written transcript.  In the control condition, the person did not use “uh” or “like.”  In the “like” condition, the person said “like” 15 times.  In the “uh” condition, the person said “uh” 15 times.  

 On the average, the person was rated higher in the control condition than in the “like” condition with respect to perceived professionalism and likelihood of being hired. Moreover, on the average, the person was rated higher in the control condition than in the “uh” condition with respect to perceived professionalism and likelihood of being hired. (1)

It should be kept in mind that this study did not involve actual hiring decisions.  Thus, it is not clear whether the findings would generalize to actual hiring decisions. Nonetheless, it may be a good idea for job applicants to avoid using “like” and “uh” during interviews.


1.  See their article for other findings.


Russell, B., Perkins, J., & Grinnell, H.  (2008).  Interviewees’ overuse of the word “like” and hesitations:  Effects in simulated hiring decisions. Psychological Reports, 102, 111-118.