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Cognition > Decision-Making - 1 of 7

Human Decision-Making

Decision-making is a subset of our information processing capabilities. To make decisions we draw upon our sensory inputs, either externally or internally generated. We also draw upon our workbench of working memory to process these stimuli and to access long-term memory for prior experience and knowledge.

We make many thousands of decisions each day—most of which we are not aware of making. At our desks, we may shift position in response to an internal stimulus of discomfort or we may decide to go to lunch because of internal hunger pangs. In response to external stimuli, we may answer a ringing telephone or respond to a request from a coworker.

The decisions of which we are most aware are those on which we expend time and effort contemplating. These typically involve planning and weighing the outcomes of several alternatives. In a work setting, this may include deciding the next step in a task, evaluating results and making recommendations, or planning work products for the next year. In our personal lives, examples may include choosing a car to purchase, where to go on a vacation, or a school for our children.

How humans make decisions has been a documented topic of interest since the time of Aristotle. It has significant implications for everything ranging from our personal lives and work performance, to society as whole in national policy making, economics, and social welfare. In human factors, it impacts how human-to-system interfaces and decision support systems are best designed to aid efficient, error-free human decisions.



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