Thinking and Decision Making
Marilyn Jager Adams Carl E. Feehrer Bolt Beranek and Newman Inc. Cambridge, Massachusetts
Making decisions. There is probably no mental activity on which we spend more time and energy. Indeed, there is probably no conscious activity on which we should spend more time and energy. Except as we actively make decisions, life just happens to us.
Clearly, everything we do influences life's course, but it is through the process of making decisions that we influence it willfully. Ideally, decision making is the process by which we influence life purposefully and with due consideration of what we need and what we don't need, what we want and what we don't want, what we know and what we don't know, what we can do and what we can't do, and how much it's worth to us. Yet, that's a lot of considerations. And so, we find that among mortals, the ideal and the actual do not often coincide.
In developing curricular materials on decision making, our goal was not to teach the students to behave like ideal decision makers. It was, instead, to develop in them a sense of the multilayered and multidimensional nature of the decision space. It was to allow exploration of the importance of the various dimensions of the space and discovery of the connections between them. And, it was to develop appreciation of the many and often-over- looked ways in which decision making is relevant.
Our materials on decision making were, moreover, developed as just one series of lessons within a larger curriculum package entitled Odyssey: A Curriculum for Thinking ( Adams, 1986). As such, their more general purpose was to convey to students, in just one more way, that all manner of