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Design for How People Think by John Whalen

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Chapter 6 Decision Making and Problem Solving: Enter Consciousness, Stage Left

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Decision Making and Problem Solving: Enter Consciousness, Stage Left

most of the processes I’ve introduced so far, like attentional shifts and associating words with their meanings, occur automatically, even if they’re influenced by consciousness. In contrast, this chapter focuses on the very deliberate and conscious process of decision making and problem solving. Relative to other processes, this is the one that you’re the most aware of and in control of. Right now as you are reading this, you’re aware that you’re thinking about thinking and decision making.

In this chapter we will focus on how we, as decision makers, define where we are now and our goal state, and make decisions to get us closer to our desired goal. Designers rarely think in these terms, but I hope to change that.

[ Side note ]

There are several fantastic books and articles about how we as humans deviate from perfect rationality when making decisions—Amos Tversky and Daniel Kahneman won a Nobel Prize demonstrating that. In the next chapter we will examine emotions and some of the ways they factor into decision making. For now, though, let’s focus on the decision-making process generally.

What Is My Problem (Definition)?

When you’re problem solving and decision making, you have to answer a series of questions. The first one is, “What is my problem?” By this I mean “What is the problem you’re trying to solve?” ...

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