The Psychology of Decision Making: Why We Make the Choices We Do

Have you ever wondered why you make the choices you do? Why do you choose one option over another? Is it because of your upbringing, your personality, or your environment? Or is it something deeper, something more fundamental that drives our decision-making process?

In this article, we will explore the psychology of decision making and try to understand why we make the choices we do. We will look at the different factors that influence our decisions, from cognitive biases to social pressures, and examine how they shape our behavior.

The Rational Decision-Making Model

Let's start with the most basic model of decision making: the rational decision-making model. According to this model, we make decisions by weighing the pros and cons of each option and choosing the one that maximizes our utility. In other words, we make decisions based on logic and reason.

Sounds simple enough, right? But the reality is that we rarely make decisions this way. We are not always rational beings, and our decisions are often influenced by a variety of factors that have nothing to do with logic or reason.

Cognitive Biases

One of the biggest factors that influence our decisions is cognitive biases. Cognitive biases are mental shortcuts that our brains use to simplify complex information and make decisions quickly. They are often based on our past experiences and can lead us to make irrational decisions.

For example, the confirmation bias is a cognitive bias that causes us to seek out information that confirms our existing beliefs and ignore information that contradicts them. This can lead us to make decisions based on incomplete or inaccurate information.

Another common cognitive bias is the sunk cost fallacy. This bias causes us to continue investing in a project or decision even if it no longer makes sense, simply because we have already invested time, money, or effort into it.


Emotions are another powerful factor that influence our decisions. Our emotions can override our logic and reason, causing us to make decisions that we later regret.

For example, the fear of missing out (FOMO) is an emotion that can cause us to make impulsive decisions. We may feel like we need to take advantage of an opportunity or join in on an activity simply because we don't want to miss out on the experience.

On the other hand, our emotions can also lead us to make decisions that are more altruistic or compassionate. We may choose to help someone in need because we feel empathy for them, even if it doesn't make logical sense.

Social Pressures

Social pressures are another factor that can influence our decisions. We often make decisions based on what we think others expect of us or what we believe is socially acceptable.

For example, the bandwagon effect is a social pressure that causes us to follow the crowd. We may choose to buy a certain product or support a certain political candidate simply because everyone else is doing it.

Similarly, the conformity bias is a social pressure that causes us to conform to the opinions and behaviors of those around us. We may change our opinions or behaviors to fit in with a particular group, even if we don't truly believe in what they are doing.

Personal Factors

Finally, our personal factors can also influence our decisions. Our upbringing, personality, and values can all play a role in the decisions we make.

For example, someone who was raised in a strict religious household may make decisions based on their religious beliefs, even if it goes against their logic or reason. Similarly, someone with a more risk-averse personality may make decisions that are more cautious and conservative.


In conclusion, the psychology of decision making is a complex and multifaceted topic. We make decisions based on a variety of factors, from cognitive biases to social pressures to personal factors. Understanding these factors can help us make better decisions and avoid common pitfalls.

So the next time you find yourself struggling to make a decision, take a step back and consider the different factors that may be influencing your choice. Are you making a decision based on logic and reason, or are your emotions or social pressures playing a role? By understanding the psychology of decision making, we can make more informed and rational choices that align with our values and goals.

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Written by AI researcher, Haskell Ruska, PhD ( Scientific Journal of AI 2023, Peer Reviewed