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How do we make decisions?

How do we make decisions?

A gut feeling, a rational decision or some combination of those?

Let’s take a simple example.

How to get from where we are (a hotel in the country) into the city of Münster for the Christmas Market.

How do we make decisions?

How do we make decisions?

It seems like a simple decision, but how did we get there? Also, how can we extrapolate our more simple decisions into our larger ones?

Let’s do the pros and cons of each.



  1. It’s warm inside.
  2. We’re already in there car–even to drive to a train station.
  3. No platforms, tickets, people.
  4. The rest of my family would rather drive (for mostly the above reasons).
  5. Might be cheaper (gas + parking), didn’t do the math.


  1. I’m the one driving. I have to:
    1. pay attention,
    2. try to see in the (very) dark roads,
    3. stay awake,
    4. not drink too much Glühwein,
    5. figure out the way there and back,
    6. find parking,
    7. pay for parking,
    8. not get car broken into
  2. No connection with local people (some see this is a pro, some as a con).



  1. Simplicity. Get on train, get off train, walk to market.
  2. Go Native: See some locals, human contact,
  3. On time, no traffic, no getting lost.
  4. Nothing to get broken into or stolen in city parking.
  5. There’s the unknown element


  1. Tickets, in and out of vehicles, waiting on cold platform.
  2. Could be delayed, cancelled, full.
  3. Probably cost more (4 of us = 4 tickets).

I’m no mathematician, but it looks like it adds up to taking the train. Also, if you use a weighted scale where my points count more than others (for example, my annoyance with driving because we might crash in the dark outweighs my son’s wanting extra minutes of car iPad time), then it’s a slam dunk to take the train.

What did we do? We took the train.

So how do we, no, really, make decisions?

  • The Science Of Decision-Making: 5 Surprising Ways We Make Life Choices: We make countless decisions each day, from the moment we wake till the second we rest our heads on a pillow. What clothes do I wear? What phrase will I use to greet my neighbor? How do I travel to work? You certainly get the picture. While being key to our behavior and every aspect of our lives, decision-making as a process is not something we give too much thought.
  • HowStuffWorks: How do we make decisions? Many of us have spent more than a night or two staring at the ceiling and wondering what to do with our lives, what career to pursue and where we’d rather be living. And then we spend our days making choices about what shoes to wear, which road will get us to work quicker and where we should eat for lunch.
  • Decisions Are Emotional, Not Logical: The Neuroscience behind Decision Making: Think of a situation where you had bulletproof facts, reason, and logic on your side, and believed there was absolutely no way the other person could say no to your perfectly constructed argument and proposal. To do so would be impossible, you figured, because there was no other logical solution or answer.

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