How People Really Make Decisions

By January 28, 2011 Persuasion 3 Comments

As human beings, we would like to think that when we make decisions, we scrutinize and evaluate the information that we’re given and then ultimately make a logical decision based on our evaluation. In reality however, nothing could be further from the truth. 

Human beings very rarely make decisions that way; most of the time our decision-making process takes place without us even realizing it. The is because when living in the in the age of information, there is just not enough time for anyone to really evaluate every single piece of information that comes our way and then decide what we’re going to do with it.

Let’s face it, thinking is hard work.  There are so many things in life to think about that to consciously ponder every single decision that you’re going to make is almost impossible. So instead, what we have are mental short cuts that we use to dissect all of this information and make rapid decisions.

These short cuts appear in the form of preconceived ideas about what we believe or how we believe certain things should be and when we come across something that involves making a decision, we subconsciously cross reference it with all the preconceived notions and beliefs that we have and then we make a decision.

Much research has shown that over 90% of the reason behind a person’s decision to make a purchase on something is associated with a decision that takes place on a subconscious level. What that means is that most of the time when we buy something, we’re doing it for reasons that we really haven’t even fully developed in our conscious minds.

Now there are many reasons why people don’t really think about making decisions. It could be the fact that with so much information available people get overwhelmed or sometimes the decision really isn’t going to impact our lives that dramatically or that it just simply doesn’t involve much research or thinking.

 The bottom line is that as humans we love taking shortcuts because it makes the mental work much easier. How many times have you walked into a store and relied on the sales person’s advice or brought a friend along to get their opinion when buying something?

Most people will never admit this but many of us can buy something just because of the way it looks or because of the label that’s on it. Have you ever purchased a piece of clothing because of the manufacturer’s name as opposed to investigating the quality of the clothing and the fabric itself?

Realize this; you can never really logically understand why human beings behave in a certain way because we are not logical people. Instead, we are emotional people making decisions primarily based on emotions but thinking we are logical.

Therefore, the only way to predict how most people will behave is to organize them in groups, provide some sort of stimulus and then, monitor the response. These are known as studies and most of the time, the results that they provide prove how illogical people really are.

Countless psychological studies have shown people react more to the way that information is presented to them rather than the content of the information itself.  

But in a world where people are driven primarily by emotions, logic does have its place.

I’ve read tons of books on sales and dedicated most of my life to mastering the art of selling. Many sales experts or guru’s claim that every decision that we make is primarily an emotional one and that logic is used later to justify that decision. This is true. Even the most logical decisions are driven by an emotion. Take the decision to not stand in front of a truck going 60 mph. While it may appear that this is a logical decision because you don’t want to get hurt or even die, it is the emotion of fear that is ultimately driving that decision.

Here is what most of the gurus don’t talk about…. Some people like to think they make decisions logically like “thinkers” for example. These people are not strayed by emotional arguments. They like hard data and facts that support a particular point of view. But this desire to make decisions logically is still driven by the emotion to want to be logical. Therefore, when persuading these types of people, it’s important to appear to appeal to the logical side of their brains but keep in mind that you are still triggering emotions within them. 

Emotions are essentially what fuel the world. Emotions are what create love, hate, war, life, death and just about everything else that we do but make no mistake, logic does play a role in the emotional experience.  And therefore, you must always remember to balance tapping in to logic and emotion when influencing certain people. People are definitely more likely to believe what you say, based on logic, but ultimately there will it is their emotion that will move them to take action.  Many different studies have shown that more than 90% of the decisions that we make are emotionally driven.  Yes, we use logic afterwards to justify our actions and why we did certain things, but ultimately it is emotion that prompts us to first take action.

When using emotion to guide behaviors or thought processes, you can sometimes first engage people using logic, and then tap into the emotion to get them to take action.  For example, if I wanted to persuade you to buy a car- but it was a $250,000 Ferrari – which you know logically you cannot afford – the fact is that we will never even get to the influence process, because you’ve already made a logical decision that would not even be worth it to speak with me.

Back to my point, human beings like logic in some cases. And in those cases, it’s extremely valuable.

For example, when we are trying to draw conclusions based on evidence that’s been given to others, we use logic. In fact, for an argument to even make sense or to even be worth speaking about it has to be true and valid which means there has to be some level of logic involved. 

But the overall body governing a decision is the human emotion.




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