Decision-Making in Complex Situations - Results of German Empirical Studies

Article excerpt

Key Results

* As a consequence it appears important to develop a system of variables as a framework to establish an empirical theory of decision making.

Determinants of Decision-making Behavior

The scientific approach to a field which is so multi-layered and rich in variables as human decision-making behavior requires first to develop a grid for analysis. It is to concretize "decision-making behavior" and operationalize it for empirical explanation. At the same time, it represents a system of order for the search, depiction, and linking of empirical results.

Decision-making behavior is explained by means of three fundamental determinants and their interaction. These determinants are the problem requiring decision as a task, the decision-maker as the person responsable for the making of the decision, the decision-making process as the reflection of the decision making. "Behavior", "acting", and "problem-solving" are considered synonyms.

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Behavior is always directed at coping with a specific problem. Even spontaneous behavior is still of a directional nature since it corresponds to the handling of a situation which requires a solution. Decision-making behavior, thus, is an action directed at solving a problem requiring decision. The motivation for such behavior is rooted in the perception of a problem, in the disturbance of an existing equilibrium. At the same time, it is less the subject matter or the cause of decision -- e.g. personnel, investment, or assortment decisions -- which determines behavior than rather the general characteristics of the problem requiring decision. Such characteristics are

-- the importance of the problem,

-- the complexity of the problem,

-- the urgency of the problem.

Coping with a problem is, however, determined to a high degree by the characteristics of the problem solver. The task, therefore, is to identify those characteristics of the individual which are guiding his/her behavior and to analyze their effects. The task is to identify fundamental personnel-related factors which, depending on their quality, make a different impact upon decision-making behavior. Characteristics of this type which are relevant to behavior are

-- the number of decision makers,

-- the qualities of the decision makers,

-- the preferences of the decision makers.

The perception of the problem requiring decision by the decision makers constitutes the link between these two fundamental determinants of decision-making behavior.

Moreover, empirical research on decision making means the determination of behavioral regularities by means of the analysis of the decision-making process. The course of this process is considered to be the pattern of action of the decision-making behavior. To what extent certain courses of process constitute additional conditions of efficiency is to be left open here (cf. Gzuk 1975).

Decisions are understood as immaterial products of predominantly mental work. Consequently, decision making is seen as a special problem-solving process which requires and is able to be designed. In this context, process characteristics relevant to behavior are

-- the barriers to the decision-making process,

-- the pattern of the course of the decision-making process,

-- the control of the decision-making process.

This provides a grid for analysis and order permitting the analysis of decision-making behavior in its structure of variables:

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In view of the topical scope of the field of research, completeness in documenting the findings cannot be achieved. In addition, in terms of depth of explanation, sketches have to replace detailed reporting. Evaluation of the findings in terms of methodic stringency will have to be largely renounced. Orientation and limitation of the analysis of pertinent literature will be done under the particular aspect of the application of the findings in the company. …