SGPsychStud: Cognitive Psychology in Decision Making

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Yesterday (11 September 2015), Singaporeans had to make a  decision that will affect their lives for the next five year.  Results were out early this morning with the ruling party winning a landslide of 69.86% of votes and securing 83 out of 89 seats available in the Parliament.  This post is paying tribute to this SG50 event, with the examples given with reference to the elections and yet discussing about the topic of how cognitive psychology works in our everyday decision making.
So how did  you make that decision?  And what factors have affected you in making that decision?
The best steps to making that decision is as shown in the above picture:
  1. Identifying the clear goal or end result (this might be different for different people)
  2. Identifying all possible options (in this case, there might only be two, or at most three:  Ruling party or opposition parties in your constituency) 
  3. Study your options (understanding as much as possible 
  4. Select the best option and carry out the decision (that is to vote!)
  5. Evaluate your decision (A reflection of whether you have made the right choice)
However, even before we make that decision, there are five factors that will sway one's ideas and thoughts towards making a decision (Dietrich, 2010Exforsys, 2011):
  1. Past experiences
  2. Cognitive biases, such as belief bias, hindsight bias, omission bias, confirmation bias, etc. (Dietrich, 2010Exforsys, 2011)
  3. Individual differences
  4. Belief in personal relevance is where the decision is highly related to the individual and believe that his/her vote and opinion matters.
  5. Escalation of commitment is where the decision is based on the amount of commitment and investment that an individual has put into towards that decision.  This may result in the decision being made due to the large amount of commitment/investment, rather than a objective view of the situation.
How to make the best objective decision?
The main step to do this is Step 3: Study your options.  By having indepth analyses of  our options ( evaluation of each of the political parties and what they have done or going to do), we can then make the most objective decision to our best abilities.  In our analyses, it is unavoidable that we are highly affected by the five factors as mentioned above.  However, it is best that we take them into consideration, through understanding ourselves and the rationale for our decisions.

There are some individual characteristics would benefit you in making the most objective decision:
  • Do not fear  -  The fear of the consequences will make our decisions biased as it will be highly affected by the five factors.
  • Thirst of knowledge  -  The thirst of knowledge will allow us to do all the research that we need to evaluate the options in Step 3.
  • Curiosity  -  Having curiosity will allow us to ask the right questions and allows us to understand the situations better.
  • Positive mindset  -  Regardless of the results, having a positive mindset will help you to feel calm that things will still be okay.  Being calm will also help in making a more rational and objective decision.
Lastly, before we end, are you happy and proud of your decision (Step 5) and feel that you made the right decision?  Things cannot be changed now, since the election results are officially out.  You have another chance to make your most objective view in four to five years time!  So for the next election, make sure you go through this post again!!!

Dietrich, C. (2010).  Decision making: Factors that influence decision making, heuristics used, and decision outcomes.  Student Pulse, 2(02).  Retrieved from
Exforsys (February 24, 2011).  Factors and components of decision making.  Exforsys Inc.  Retrieved from