The Mirror Made from Made Decisions

What better reflects than a collection of actions? How we respond, what we create, these are the meters by which many of us measure ourselves. My question is: what can decisions show us?
Specifically, how do differences in judgment highlight the traits of a culture? As I touched on before, I am the product of two cultures, and any child who shares my placement knows the differences do not stop at language and clothes. Culture is a way of life, and a way of thinking. And every school of thought has it’s own, individual problem solving procedure. The process of reaching a decision is hard to record in the way dreams are hard to remember. However, by examining the results, we can begin to build a path backwards. With careful consideration, a fading sentiment becomes a many-chaptered journey.

Cultural Influences

In AP Psychology, something that has consistently come up is cultural influences. The general consensus amongst the experts is that culture plays a significant role in the social science. This isn’t too surprising to me, having grown up with concentrated exposure to two cultures; culture pervades every aspect of one’s life, most of all one’s thinking. However, I’d like to investigate the extent to which it affects us, specifically decision-making. Out of curiosity and personal interest, I’ve begun researching how culture affects decision-making.

Culture and Individual Judgment and Decision Making, a paper by Weber and Hsee, was an excellent starting point. It’s a review of past research on the cross-cultural psychology and decision-making. They focus on four main categories: risk perception, risk preference, probability judgment, and modes of decision. The two noted a correlation between cultural expectations or values and differences in decision making processes. I’m excited to examine and incorporate this paper into my own research.

Going more in depth, I found an article: “The Effects of Culture on Decision Making and Judgment”. This article was more focused– it acknowledged the trend Weber and Hsee observed and introduced a study conducted in Hong Kong. The study indicates the extent to which culture influences decisions depends on the situation; effects also depend on how much the perceptions of the culture are called to mind given the situations. Essentially, cultural influence depends on how closely tied the situation is to the specific culture’s values.

Evidently, I have more research to do, but I’m getting more excited the more focused my research becomes.

The Art of Choosing

I first came across Iyengar’s work in my previous nonfiction choice, Blink, through which I became aware of her contributions to the field of decision-making. Choosing her book, The Art of Choosing, proved to be a wise decision. I picked the book up in the hopes of further investigating decision-making; in hindsight, I regret not choosing it first. Iyengar provides firsthand accounts of several studies; in addition, she manages to explain decision making in a simultaneously broad and thorough fashion. Gladwell’s novel, while intriguing, focused on one aspect of decisions making but was more diffused in hos explanations. Iyengar, on the other hand, covered different facets of decision making in depth. Furthermore, her expertise on the subject matter should not be neglected. As a Columbia University psychology professor, she is undeniably qualified to present the information, and her analysis are insightful and distinctively her own. Many of the studies she mentions are performed by her and colleagues, lending a personal sense to her writing. Ultimately, I was pleased by the book and am eager to use her work in my research.

Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking


Blink, by Malcolm Gladwell was the first book I decided to read when I decided on my topic, decision-making. I had heard of both the author and the title, which led some weight to my selection. The inside-cover promised insight to the quick decisions we must make under pressure. The book revolved mostly around the idea of thin-slicing; our ability to view a situation, process available information, and make a decision in the blink of an eye. I found the process intriguing, more so when I realized the connection between it and insight, which I had read about in my summer non-fiction selection (Imagine, by Jonah Lehrer). However, I can’t say much for the organization of the book. Gladwell was prone to go on long expositions on concepts– while he did a good job connecting it back to his focus, decision making, I found the explanations lengthy and wished he would reinforce the main ideas in-text. As such, the book would have been better as a leisure read, not as a book for research. Nevertheless, Blink was an effective gateway into my topic, as the expositions were effective introduction.

Should You Read This Post?

Recently, I’ve found I have to make decisions. After years of riding others’ bow waves, my age and circumstances now necessitate a degree of self-reliance. And so I’ve pulled out my decision-making-skill, only to find it malnourished and stunted– a victim of neglect.

The ensuing unease has led me to wonder: how do we make decisions? It’s a process we seldom dwell on, deciding there are better things to concern ourselves with. But what is the process that enables us to take in countless amounts of data, analyze their use, and spit out what action should yield the best results, and all of this in a timely manner? How do we shift, from mapping out long-term checkpoints and finish lines, to whether we should have another over-priced colored fluid or it’s derived form, water? What can we do to increase decision-making’s efficiency and decrease its defects?

Perhaps, by investigating decision-making, I can learn how to develop my own skill. And perhaps my research will prove useful for others– but that will be for the readers to decide.