Learning how to make decisions is an important part of human development. As there are any number of ways in which a person will process and understand the world and their choices, processes used in different academic disciplines can provide a useful structure for personal decision-making.
The process of scientific discovery or inquiry, or what has long been known as the scientific method, is one such model for guiding our choices and decisions. The scientific method has traditionally been defined as a process that includes systematic observation, measurement or assessment, experimentation, and leads to the formulation, testing and modification of hypotheses.
In many ways this mirrors the process of personal decision-making. A decision to be made is put upon one, and the best starting place is to make observations. For instance, if a decision is to be made about choosing a college, observations about the type of most suitable environment (urban, suburban or rural), what size of school feels right, and the like, would be a good starting point.
With personal observations about what seems right guiding the process, a person can move to the next step of assessing or measuring what option would be best. Sticking with the example of choosing a college, these measurements might include distance, cost, specific program offerings and other quantifiable factors. While making the choice, students tend to go and visit the college, giving the chance to experiment with the different environments which they are most seriously considering. Just like test-driving a car, this step of testing different options is central to the decisions we make.
Of course, decisions aren’t always right, they may need to change, and decision-making processes can evolve, and in keeping with a scientific perspective on the topic, some key elements of the scientific process can help to make personal decision-making even stronger.
Scientific inquiry that yields results relies on the additional step of actively formulating, testing and modifying hypotheses. During the decision-making process, and after it as well, people need to take into account the decisions they are coming to and hone or re-develop them as they need. Decisions, like natural phenomenon, may not always be fixed in time, and re-assessing their validity is important.
Remaining objective is also critical. Personal biases can factor into interpretations and analysis in ways that impact the decision-making process immensely. Cultural and social factors, also which are changeable, will add to the influences within the process of making decisions. All these different factors should be recognized and used to effectively make or change personal decisions.
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