Differentiation and Consolidation Theory: Decision Making Processes Before and After a Choice
This chapter presents Differentiation and Consolidation (Diff Con) theory. First the concept of levels of decisions will be introduced and exemplified, followed by a brief description of the theory itself. Finally, a set of studies conducted from a Diff Con perspective will be presented with their main findings.
In this chapter, decision making is seen as a creative process in a dynamic environment. This process involves the elicitation of goals, creation of decision alternatives, and comparisons of alternatives with reference to how well they fit the goals. The interest will not be confined to predecision processes only but it will also cover the postdecision phase from a few minutes up to several months.
Naturally, in real life most of these processes have to be well learned quick, automatic, and subconscious to decrease the load on a decision maker's focal thought-processing capacity. In line with this, it is possible to distinguish levels of decision making through reference to the psychological processes needed for different decisions made by the same individual decision maker. To specify, decisions can be classified according to the extent to which the decision maker uses his or her own value system and the information in a decision problem and the complexity of the decision processes. A decision maker's value system is a term used here to summarize all fundamental values, attitudes, motivations, and drives that form the goals in a given situation, and that are of potential importance for a decision. When the value system is mapped onto a decision problem,