In our previous blog post Connecting the Dots, we talked about how people are constantly connecting information and creating new understanding. Despite doing this people often rely on habit or minimal information in making decisions.
For instance, when a person is in the habit of buying a certain product, they likely don’t give the choice a second thought. The person just grabs the product from the shelf as they hurry through the store. Experience and the pathways ingrained in the person’s brain often results in the person ignoring other similar products.
In cases where a person hasn’t created a habit of purchasing a specific item, they may compare prices or check packaging details before selecting an item. They are consciously making a decision about the product. However, they are only considering the limited information that is in front of them.
When it comes to large purchases, however, people are more likely to do more extensive research. Before a person buys a vehicle, they may talk to friends and family to find out their experience. The person may also check Consumer Report or other guides. They may review the cost to purchase and the expected maintenance cost. The person attempts to do due diligence due to the amount of money involved. They want to ensure that they make an informed decision.
When a person attempts to take a wide variety of factors into account over the lifetime of the product, they are trying to define the total cost of ownership for the item. For example, the vehicle with the cheapest purchase price may not cost the least amount of money in the long-term.
In addition, many costs and benefits of buying decisions are not financial in nature. For instance, a buyer may see value in selecting one vehicle over another for the purpose of portraying a certain image.
Hidden or unconsciously ignored costs also come into play. A hidden cost arises when a person doesn’t realize that a shirt that they they are purchasing was made in a factory where people are mistreated. By purchasing the shirt, which may be beautiful and cost effective to purchase, the person inadvertently supports this factory. Thus, the cost is that they unknowingly support something they may strongly oppose.
On the surface, the decision on many things may appear to be obvious. It may seem to provide the benefits the person wants for themselves and the world. Yet, if they knew all the underlying information, they might make a different decision.
In other cases, the person may support the idea because it sounds like it aligns with their goals even though there is known evidence to the contrary. Most people will deny that they ever do that, but the reality is that all people do that. People pick and choose the experts and reports that they believe based on what they want to be true. The filtering of facts is driven by a person’s existing beliefs and experiences.
Therefore, most decisions, no matter how small aren’t what they really seem on the surface. The decisions are connected to other people and actions around the world. Therefore, even when a person tries to look at the total cost and benefit of a decision, they rarely consider all the facts.
Thus, even with the most careful consideration and the best of intentions, people often make flawed decisions. This is why it is important to continually reassess decisions. If a person has already driven the car off the lot, taking it back and trading for a different model may not be practical. The person may have to wait until they are ready to sell the car to make a change. However, it can be applied immediately in other areas of life.
If a person learns new information that contradicts their beliefs or views on specific aspects of a relationship, political ideology, religion, or work, they can often make changes immediately. The key is to be willing to look beyond the surface. A person has to be willing to question even their own beliefs. As long as a person stays on autopilot and looks only at the very surface, they will never understand the actual impact of their decisions.
The best thing a person can do is to challenge their own analysis. By doing so, they may discover hidden assumptions based on outdated or incorrect connections that they have built over the years. In awakening to their subjective thought process, they will hopefully become more open to other perspectives on the world and become more understanding of others. This understanding is key to making better decisions for oneself and the world!