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2022 Winter

DECISION MAKING - PSY285/PSY585 Winter 2022


Course
Joshua Hayden
For information about registration please contact our admissions.

Decision Making is a course that draws on research in psychology, behavioral economics, philosophy and organizational studies to engage students in both a complex and practical understanding of how good decisions are made.

You and I make many decisions each day, some of them unconsciously and some with deliberation. We make decisions about how to use our time, what to prioritize, what to do about interpersonal conflicts, and where to go for lunch. We also make decisions with farther-reaching consequences like our next career move, who we want to date, and about the lifestyle we want to pursue. Social scientists study how people make these kinds of decisions and which processes produce the best results, the most happiness, and greatest good. There is much to be gained by examining and applying the science and ancient wisdom of decision-making in our own lives.

This course is an exploration of making every day and long-term decisions through the lens of social science. We will examine why people make the decisions they do and practical, research-based ways to make better decisions personally and professionally. Topics will include cognitive biases in decision making, moral psychology of choice, creative problem-solving, insights from behavioral economics, the role of values/spirituality, leadership ethics, and group decision-making. The overall goals will be both to understand the dynamics involved in making decisions and to construct a framework by which students can make good decisions that can lead to theirs and others well-bring, success, and greater meaning in work and life.

FULL SYLLABUS: /files/6204760/Decision_Making_W22_Hayden_SyllabusAAU.pdf

 

Decision Making Framework

 

Quick schedule reference:

Date

Class Agenda

Lesson 1

Tuesday, January 4

 

Topic: The Dynamics of Decisions and Why They Go Wrong

Description: In this lesson we will cover the core assumptions behind this course, the expectations of students and the design of the course. Our particular focus in settling the table for the framework is what we know about bad decisions. We all have made bad decisions: What do they have in common in terms of their process? What are the major cognitive biases that get in the may of making wise decisions? What does it mean to make a wise decision?

Reading:

·       Listen to Freakonomics Radio podcast episode 271 “The Men Who Started a Thinking Revolution”

·       Read: Decisive “Introduction” and chapter 1 “The Four Villains of Decision Making”

·       Read: Thinking, Fast and Slow chapter 1 “The Characters of the Story”

 

Lesson 2

Wednesday, January 5

 

Framework question: What do I want?

Topic: Goals, values and Decision Making

Description: What makes a decision “good”? Is it just success, or happiness? We will examine the intersection of philosophy of the “good life” and the psychology of goals in directing our decisions. Goals and aspirations influence how we make decisions. Yet often these go unclarified both for individuals and for group decision making.

Assignment/Reading:

·       Listen to Dan Heath’s interview with Peter Bregman “Making your decisions match your priorities”

·       Listen to Hidden Brain podcast “You 2.0 Cultivating Your Purpose”

·       Read: Russo & Shoemaker ch. 1 "Setting the Course" in Winning Decisions: Getting it Right the First Time

 

Lesson 3

Thursday, January 6

 

Framework question: How do I really feel about this decision?

Topic: Emotions, Personality and decision making

Especially when we make difficult decisions, emotions can have a strong influence on the priorities we set. In fact, there is research to suggest that specific emotions complement our reasoning about the decisions we make. What can both ancient wisdom and modern research on emotional intelligence teach us about what to do with our emotions in the choices we make?

Reading:

·       Complete the Riso Hudson Enneagram Type Indicator (RHETI) and post your dominant type to NEO

·       Read: Riso & Hudson, “The Triadic Self” (ch. 5 from The Wisdom of the Enneagram)

·       Listen to Choiceology with Katy Milkman podcast “A bundle of Nerves”

Assignments: Quiz #1 on NEO (complete by end of Friday)

 

Lesson 4

Monday, January 10

 

 Framework Question: What are my Options?

Topic: Narrow framing and Lateral Thinking

Description: The psychological barrier of narrow framing limits and stalls our decision making. Many get stuck in making a “whether or not” type of decision, which creates barriers to better choices. We will cover the practice of considering more than one option as a way to define a decision and shape the “ecosystem” that impacts our choices. We will cover a process of thinking and creating new options using a process of lateral thinking. Sometimes the best solutions to problems are not the ones that are immediately available to us, they are the ones we create by ourselves and in collaboration with others.

Reading:

  • Read: Decisive, chapter 2 “Avoid a Narrow Frame”

·       Read: Creativity for Critical Thinkers chapters 3 and 5: “Multiplying Your Options” and “Reframing Problems”

 

Lesson 5

Tuesday, January 11

 

Framework Question: What am I missing?

Topic: Reality-Testing your assumptions

Description: Countering confirmation bias and our own wishful thinking can be challenging, but we can gain leverage over it by getting multiple perspectives and staying open. We will also examine the problems of sunk cost fallacy, herd mentality and other non-conscious processes that get in the way of seeking more information on a decision.

Reading:

·       Listen to: Choiceology episode 4 “Devil’s Advocate”

·       Read: Decisive, chapter 7 “Ooch”

·       Listen to Adam Grant’s TED talk “What frogs in hot water can teach us about thinking again”

Assignments/deadlines: Reflective Paper #1

Lesson 6

Wednesday, January 12

 

Framework Question: Am I listening to others?

Topic: Giving and Receiving Advice; Social and cultural influences on decision making

Description: Other people play a role in our decision-making process, for good or ill. Knowing who to listen to is just as important as what to listen to. Our decisions are also shaped by the cultural dispositions, values and expectations we navigate throughout our lives. Recognizing our cultural contexts can help us understand our own thinking and how it can conflict with others. In addition, evidence suggests that many times, we get (and give) bad advice about our decisions. What should we do about it? We will look at social/cultural influences in decision making and how to approach others with our problems and decisions.

Reading:

·       Read: “We Get and Give Lots of Bad Advice: Here’s How to Stop” article by Adam Grant, NY Times, April 2, 2020

·       Listen to The Science of Happiness podcast Episode 81: “Are You Listening to Your Elders?”

·       Read: Decisive, ch. 4 Find Someone Who Has Solved Your Problem

 

Lesson 7

Thursday, January 13

 

Framework Question: How does this decision look longer-term?

Topic: Get Some Distance: Long-term thinking and Status Quo Bias

Description: Another way to attain distance in making decisions is get your thinking out of the immediate situation. We will practice in this lesson the “10/10/10” method of long-term thinking and the evidence on why setting our sights on our long-term goals puts immediate choices into perspective.

Reading:

·       Listen to Choiceology Episode 7 “How Tomorrow Feels Today”

·       Read: Decisive chapter 8 “Overcome Short Term Emotion”

Assignments/deadlines: Quiz #2 on NEO (by end of Friday)

Lesson 8

Tuesday, January 18

 

Framework Question: Have I anticipated my limitations?

Topic: Conducting Premortems and Overcoming Poor Predictions

Description: Based on ours and others’ experience, we can envision the consequences of our decisions. Yet humans have been shown to be notoriously terrible at, and overconfident in, predicting the future. We will discuss how we can become less bad at this part of decision making by considering how our choices would lead to unintended consequences and failures.

Reading:

·       Listen to Freakonomics Radio podcast episode 233 “How to Be Less Terrible at Predicting the Future”

·       Read: Decisive chapter 11 “Set a Tripwire”

Assignments/deadlines: Reflective Paper #2

Lesson 9

Wednesday, January 19

 

Framework Question: Have we decided how to decide?

Topic: Group Decision Making, Conflict and Leadership

Description: There are many ways of making group decisions, yet rarely do teams and groups discuss how they will decide, let alone justify why this process fits the situation well. We will practice several different forms of group decisions and apply some principles of team leadership to case studies. In class, groups will begin their Group Decision Making Case Study assignment.

Reading:

·       Read: Decide How to Decide, HBR article

·       Read: Roberto, Why Great Leaders Don’t Take Yes for an Answer: Managing Conflict and Consensus, ch. 5 “Keeping Conflict Constructive”

Assignments/deadlines: Quiz #3 on NEO (by next class time)

 

Lesson 10

Thursday, January 20

 

Topic: Group Decision Making/ Building Habits

Description: This final lesson will follow-up on group decision making and putting the questions in the framework as a whole into practice. We will also tackle to tough questions about sustaining the framework: How can I create an environment in which making good choices becomes a habit? The psychological practice of commitment devices we will apply to personal decisions students have made about personal changes they want to focus on.

Reading:

·       Listen to Katy Milkman’s TED talk “Why we fail and how we stand up afterwards”

·       Listen to Freakonomics Radio podcast episode 60: “Save me from myself”

Assignments/deadlines:

·       Group Decision Making Case Study (due by end of Friday)

·       Reflective Paper #3 (due January 24th)

·       Research Paper (Due January 28th)

Here is the course outline:

1. The Dynamics of Decisions and Why They Go Wrong

Jan 4

In this lesson we will cover the core assumptions behind this course, the expectations of students and the design of the course. Our particular focus in settling the table for the framework is what we know about bad decisions. We all have made bad decisions: What do they have in common in terms of their process? What are the major cognitive biases that get in the may of making wise decisions? What does it mean to make a wise decision?

2. What do I want? Goals, Values and Decision Making

Jan 5

What makes a decision “good”? Is it just success, or happiness? We will examine the intersection of philosophy of the “good life” and the psychology of goals in directing our decisions. Goals and aspirations influence how we make decisions. Yet often these go unclarified both for individuals and for group decision making.

3. How do I really feel about this decision? Emotions, Personality and decision making

Jan 6

Especially when we make difficult decisions, emotions can have a strong influence on the priorities we set. In fact, there is research to suggest that specific emotions complement our reasoning about the decisions we make. What can both ancient wisdom and modern research on emotional intelligence teach us about what to do with our emotions in the choices we make?

4. What are my options?: Narrow framing & Lateral Thinking

Jan 10

The psychological barrier of narrow framing limits and stalls our decision making. Many get stuck in making a “whether or not” type of decision, which creates barriers to better choices. We will cover the practice of considering more than one option as a way to define a decision and shape the “ecosystem” that impacts our choices. We will cover a process of thinking and creating new options using a process of lateral thinking. Sometimes the best solutions to problems are not the ones that are immediately available to us, they are the ones we create by ourselves and in collaboration with others.

5. What am I missing?: Reality testing assumptions

Jan 11

Countering confirmation bias and our own wishful thinking can be challenging, but we can gain leverage over it by getting multiple perspectives and staying open. We will also examine the problems of sunk cost fallacy, herd mentality and other non-conscious processes that get in the way of seeking more information on a decision.

6. Am I listening to others? Advice and Social Influences on decision making

Jan 12

Other people play a role in our decision-making process, for good or ill. Knowing who to listen to is just as important as what to listen to. Evidence suggests that many times, we get (and give) bad advice about our decisions. What should we do about it? We will look at social influences in decision making and how to approach others with our problems and decisions.

7. How does this decision look longer term?: Long-term thinking and status quo bias

Jan 13

Another way to attain distance in making decisions is get your thinking out of the immediate situation. We will practice in this lesson the “10/10/10” method of long-term thinking and the evidence on why setting our sights on our long-term goals puts immediate choices into perspective.

8. Have I anticipated my limitations?: Poor predictions and premortems

Jan 18

Based on ours and others’ experience, we can envision the consequences of our decisions. Yet humans have been shown to be notoriously terrible at, and overconfident in, predicting the future. We will discuss how we can become less bad at this part of decision making by considering how our choices would lead to unintended consequences and failures.

9. Have we decided how to decide?: Group decision making, conflict and leadership

Jan 19

There are many ways of making group decisions, yet rarely do teams and groups discuss how they will decide, let alone justify why this process fits the situation well. We will practice several different forms of group decisions and apply some principles of team leadership to case studies. In class, groups will begin their Group Decision Making Case Study assignment.

10. Group Decision Making/ Building Habits

Jan 20

This final lesson will follow-up on group decision making and putting the questions in the framework as a whole into practice. We will also tackle to tough questions about sustaining the framework: How can I create an environment in which making good choices becomes a habit? The psychological practice of commitment devices we will apply to personal decisions students have made about personal changes they want to focus on.

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