Think Again

Links to Other Research

This section of our website is for those readers of our book who might be interested in some of the other research into decision making – in particular, the many deviations from the classical, rational view of how decisions should be made. These are sometimes termed decision making biases or heuristics, but we call them “effects” because they are the observed effects of the unseen ways in which the brain makes decisions.

In this appendix we provide a list of many of these effects (download the PDF file here). We suggest how they might be explained by one of our four red flags. Our purpose is to describe the extent to which our framework of four red flags can explain the myriad decision making biases observed by other researchers. For example, researchers have observed the effect they term anchoring – the tendency to rely too heavily, or "anchor," on a past reference or on one trait or piece of information when making decisions. This is very similar to our idea of pre-judgements. Therefore, in the following table we indicate that anchoring might be explained by our idea of pre-judgments.

Sometimes the effects appear to be more closely linked to our one-plan-at-a-time decision process rather than to a specific red flag – therefore we have added a column for the one-plan-at-a-time decision process.

We are not arguing that our model is the only model possible. Only that it provides a reasonably comprehensive interpretation of most of the effects observed. Neither are we arguing that our model is an accurate representation of how the brain actually makes decisions. The brain is a highly complex, linked system of customised components. Our model is a practical simplification that can help decision makers analyse potential sources of risk. Indeed, one of the problems with past research is the vast range of observed effects. While interesting and thought provoking, they do not provide a simple framework for use in practical day-to-day decision making. Our aim has been to provide such a framework simple enough to be of practical use but broad enough to cover most of the biases exhibited in making strategic decisions.

We could explain these effects in terms of cognitive recognition and emotional tagging (see part one of Think Again). However, as virtually all the effects might be explained by a mix of the two this would not be very informative.

Overall, we can explain most, but not all, the effects listed. Of course, some of the effects give a precise definition of a particular behaviour in a way that may be particularly helpful in a given situation. Overall, we think that our four red flags give pretty reasonable coverage of many observed effects. Furthermore, our red flags allow the user to diagnose the type of distortion in advance of a decision e.g., by reflecting on a decision makers experience - this is not possible with all the other effects listed.