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Are we in control of our own decisions?


Dan Ariely poses a very thought provoking question. Are we in control of our decisions? Dan goes though different tests, illusions , and studies to understand how people make decisions. He finds that many decisions are based on how a situation is presented or is viewed and less to do with the person. He questions whether people even have control over their decisions or if the outside circumstances determine what a person will do.  The examples seem to present a convincing argument, So do we really control our decisions? or are we in some way influenced to make certain decisions?

Behavioral economist Dan Ariely, the author of Predictably Irrational, uses classic visual illusions and his own counterintuitive (and sometimes shocking) research findings to show how we’re not as rational as we think when we make decisions.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]

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3 Comments


Caleb Vanderploeg
11/30/13

I think that a great example of people making “decisions” that have little to do with them as a person is the red hammer test (not what you want to call it if your are giving it to someone). Basically how it works is a series of increasingly difficult but always pretty easy math problems are given and the test subject is told to answer as quickly as possible. After about 6 or so questions are asked the test subject is asked to think of a color and a tool and given only a couple seconds to answer. Almost 90% of people say red hammer. Nothing leads them to this answer so to say red hammer is a decision made completely by the test subject yet most people say the same thing.


mohammad alsaif
02/02/14

Decision making is very difficult when there is high complexity or unknown information, which will be difficult for the person to do make the right decision. To give the best decision you should lower the complexity of the problem.


K. Johnson
02/27/14

I’ve pondered this question quite a lot lately. To really get at the root of it, I tried going all the way back to the “beginning” of the chain of cause-and-effect that IMT deals so intimately with. I put “beginning” in quotes because the concept of a starting place is logically unstable if the idea of infinity (no beginning or end) is accepted. I believe that infinity does exist, and because of that, it makes deciphering the chain of events quite perplexing, since there is no beginning.
That’s why I don’t think cause can be separated from effect. They only seem like separate ideas because, as human beings, we are forced to view reality from a “timed” perspective. If the idea of infinity is accepted, then the idea of time must logically be discarded; time is a convenient shorthand description of a series of events, just like letters, words, and sentences are a convenient shorthand for describing our thoughts. Time is a faulty description, because while it allows us to “measure” things in the physical world, it is purely a theoretical concept (and faulty, because it doesn’t accurately reflect reality).
In this way, “cause and effect” is a faulty concept; there never was a cause to begin with. Every “condition” has always existed, as has every “effect.” To assume that they happen over time, in a “chain,” so to speak, is to assume that the concept of infinity does not exist. As to whether “we” are control of our actions or not, it is necessary to define exactly who “we” are. If we’re talking about singular individuals, we might be tempted to say that we are absolutely NOT in control of our actions, if we assume the concept of “cause and effect” is accurate. But if there IS no cause, and all of the conditions and outcomes ALREADY exist (which is true, if the concept of infinity is accepted), then the idea that “individuals” exist must be discarded. It’s quite the claim! How could individuals not exist? After all, YOU didn’t write this post, someone else did, right?
But what if the concept of the “individual” is equally as illogical as the concept of time? I argue that it MUST be, on these grounds:
1) Infinity exists
2) In infinity, all conditions and effects have always existed, and always will
3) Because nothing is ever created or destroyed (only its form differs), fundamental, real CHANGE is impossible
4) Everything that exists has always existed, and always will (though its form may differ)
5) Therefore, the “individual” forms we call ourselves are nothing more than fractured parts of a WHOLE system, which is changeless
6) The ideas of “you” or “me” are only shorthand, flawed descriptions, created to speed communication but not actually reflective of reality
7) At the broadest perspective possible, THERE IS NO DIFFERENCE, aside from form, between any piece of physical material, be it a person, animal, rock, molecule, or atom.

And, most importantly of all, since REALITY exists independently of context, and we ARE reality, then we are not beholden to any idea of choice, decision, etc. These concepts are only valid in light of their converse ideas (choice vs. non-choice, decision vs. no-decision). If we realize that the IDEA of choice (a human construct) is the only thing that enables a discussion of choice vs. non-choice, the entire discussion itself begins to fall apart.

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