Part I

Naturalistic Decision Making (NDM)

            Naturalistic decision making is defined by Zsambok (1997) as the way in which people use their experience in making their decisions in the field settings (p. 4). Naturalistic decision-making emerged as a separate research paradigm in the late 1980s and enjoyed considerable popularity in the 1990s. NDM was born out of a reaction to the limited ability of experimental methodologies to study complex, real life tasks. Tasks typically studied by NDM researchers are dynamic, continuous, potentially stressful and are usually carried out by cooperating teams (Bowling and Ebrahim 2005). NDM focuses on how decisions are made in complex, real-world environments. The implications of NDM are:

  • NDM has focused attention on how decision makers bring their experience to bear in making a decision.

  • NDM broadens the focus of the decision-making research from the decision event to the larger processes of situation assessment.

  • NDM emphasizes that different cognitive strategies and processes are used when the decision situation is viewed as a temporarily evolving one rather than a fixed event; that action and perception are crucial aspects of cognition; that human resource limitations are important factor in decision making; and that human decision making competence should be emphasized (Klein and Woods 1993).



Styles and Methods of Decision Making

            Aron Katsenelinboigen was the one who presented an elaborate account of styles and methods of decision making with his Predisposition Theory. Katsenelinboigen made reference to the game of chess in his analysis of the styles and methods of decision making asserting that chess reveals different methods of operation, particularly the creation of predisposition, a method that is applicable to other more complex systems. According to Katsenelinboigen (1997), there are two major styles in chess that can be applied in complex more decision-making – combinational and positional.

            The combinational style according to Katsenelinboigen (1997) features a clearly formulated limited objective, namely the capture of material (the main constituent element of a chess position). The objective is implemented via a well defined and in some cases in a unique sequence of moves aimed at reaching the set goal. As a rule, this sequence leaves no options for the opponent. Finding a combinational objective allows the player to focus all his energies on efficient execution, that is, the player’s analysis may be limited to the pieces directly partaking in the combination. This approach is the core of the combination and the combinational style of play (p. 57). In the combinational style, the player is not concerned with the creation of a predisposition for his future development since he is completely seized with the goal, which is a material objective. In the process, everything not linked to the capturing of the material objective is not considered by this type of player, and the question of what kind of predisposition will be created after the goal has been achieved is not of his concern (Ulea 2002).

            Unlike the combinational player, the positional player is occupied, first and foremost, with the elaboration of the position that will allow him to develop in the unknown future. In playing the positional style, the player must evaluate relational and material parameters as independent variables.


Strategies of Problem Solving

1. Rational Emotive Behavioral Therapy (REBT)

            Rational emotive behavioral therapy was introduced by Albert Ellis (1996). It was a modification of his earlier theory known as Rational Therapy. REBT’s philosophical underpinnings deal with questions such as ‘how we know what we know’ (epistemology), the role of logical thought and human reason in the acquisition of knowledge (dialects), goals for which individuals strive (values), and the criteria and standards for deciding how to relate to others (ethics) (Bernard and Joyce 1984, p. 39).


            REBT rests on the assumption that our knowledge is based on our selective interpretations of our world. How a person perceives events and people will largely impact how that person thinks, feels and behaves. The philosophy underlying REBT assumes that no absolute truth or reality exists but that each person’s truth or reality is internally defined and experienced.


            The role of logic in the acquisition of knowledge is central to REBT. Rationality and logic dictate that individuals consider all pertinent evidence before drawing a conclusion. At the very least, a rational thinker would understand that no conclusion can be based on all information, so the conclusion/ belief may need to be modified or changed as new evidence is discovered.


            Proponents of REBT believes that enjoying life is s primary goal and rational individual strive to maximize pleasure. Pure hedonism would involve achieving pleasure at any cost, but REBT adherents, who emphasize personal responsibility, advocate responsible hedonism. A person who is responsibly hedonistic is able to create short- and long-term goals that maximize pleasure potential. A pure hedonist would sacrifice long-term goals for short-term pleasure, while a responsible hedonist would forgo short-term pleasure if it meant achieving long-term pleasure goals.


            REBT embraces the humanistic philosophy of appreciating the individuality, creativity, and autonomy of the person. REBT proponents believe in the innate worth of every individual and believe that dysfunction arises out of a need to criticize self and make comparisons between self and others. Ellis views these comparisons and self-evaluations as thoroughly destructive and irrational. No universal criteria exist regarding right and wrong, pretty and ugly, or good and bad. Therefore, all such criteria are arbitrary, and to criticize oneself for not living up to some arbitrary standard sets one up for unnecessary distress (Fall et al 2003).

2. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

            The major thrust of CBT is toward the understanding and identification of patient’s behavioral patterns and precipitating and accompanying cognitive process. Cognitive process include current and automatic thoughts, self-statements, perceptions, appraisals, attributions, memories, goals, assumptions, standards, and beliefs.

Principles of CBT

            One of the major principles of CBT is that one’s basic assumptions play a central role in influencing perception and interpretation of events and in shaping both behavior and emotional responses. These basic assumptions or rules that govern individual thought and behavior develop over years and are called schema. Schema guide every aspect of the individual’s life. They provide meaning and structure to a world that is flooding our senses with information, and they are created through years of development. They provide the blueprint or the template for beliefs through which receptive information is processed and filtered. This method of organization is in accord with an existing system complete with rules and meanings. From these basic beliefs, automatic thoughts are generated, Automatic thoughts are the immediate conscious stream of thoughts that are generated from schema. Automatic thoughts can be rational though still dysfunctional, biased, or distorted. CBT aims to help patients change dysfunctional thoughts and, by testing and challenging these thoughts, change the underlying schema (McGinn and Sanderson 2001).


Youth Decision Making: Biases

            Teaching rational decision making must not only be focused on adults. Adolescents also commit serious and irrational decisions that have consequences on their long term goals. There is an increasing number of phenomena that occur to this age that are results of irrational decision making. These phenomena include teenage pregnancy, AIDS, behavior disorders and substance abuse. It is important that problems in decision-making such as biases are dealt with in the adolescence period. Poor decision making may be mediated by  a number of heuristics and biases. Biases can be divided into those that involve search and those that involve inference.

Biases of Search

  • Insufficient Search – insufficient search leads to impulsiveness. Adolescents and adults differ in their willingness to sacrifice accuracy for speed in problems that require thinking.

  • Single-Mindedness – people tend to make holistic decisions in terms of a single dominant dimension.

  • Myside Bias – a decision maker may neglect his or her desires in the future and the desires of other people both now and on the future. This can be caused by over attention to the satisfaction of immediate desires.


Biases of Inference

  • Sunk-cost Effect – characterize by sticking with plans even though the decision-maker believes that the future will be better if he or she is to give up them.

  • Endowment Effect/ Framing Effects – people overvalue what they have as opposed to what they might obtain.

  • Omission Bias

  • Neglect of Uncertain Outcomes or Imperceptible Outcomes (Baron and Brown 1991).


Part II

High-Risk Behaviors of the Decision Making Adolescent

            The behaviors associated with the major mortalities and morbidities of adolescents share common theme: risk taking. Young people with limited or no experience according to Irwin (1990), engage in potentially destructive behaviors with anticipation of benefit and without understanding the immediate or long-term consequences of their actions. According to Baumrind (1987) even though some risk taking is necessary in the normal development process, often the short- and long-term results of risk taking are disastrous. High-risk behaviors that lead to mortality and morbidity among adolescents include the following:

  • Motor and Recreational Vehicle Use – in the United States unintentional injuries and accidents among adolescents caused by motor and recreational vehicle use are among the leading causes of premature mortality.

  • Sexual Behavior – Evidence shows that there is a dramatic increase in sexual activity among adolescents.

  • Substance Use and Abuse – Substance use and abuse remains as one of the top problems involving adolescents (Susman et al 1992).


Adolescent’s Social Cognitions

            Cognitive development of Adolescents as it plays out in its social context and its effects on the development of judgment, decision making and risk taking is becoming a new direction in research. Adolescent thinking is a function of social and emotional, as well as cognitive processes. Studies indicate that patterns of social cognitive development in adolescence, like patterns of cognitive development, vary both as a function of the context under consideration and the emotional and social context in which the reasoning occurs. For example, even if the individuals’ thinking about moral dilemmas becomes more principles over the course of adolescence, their reasoning about real-life problem is not as advanced as their reasoning about hypothetical dilemmas (Steinberg 2005).


Social Influence on Decision Making: Family, Peer, the Media

            Theory indicates that social influence occurs when people continually compare themselves with others to ascertain whether or not their own behavior is appropriate (Turner 1991). As the child moves toward adolescence, it strives to create a self image apart from its parents. To aid with this identity formation, peer groups, outgroups, and role models provide the child with significant social comparisons, supplying opportunities and experiences (Maxwell 2002). Part of the task of adolescence is to gradually move away from the family and out into the world. Thus, peers commonly assume a larger influence over time. In a dysfunctional family, the influence of peers on decision-making may be unusually strong (Gordon 1996). Adolescents are influenced by their peers. Because of peer influence and social pressure, many adolescents engage in risk-taking behaviors. These adolescents run a high risk of committing various antisocial and delinquent acts, including substance abuse (White et al 1990). Lack of parental supervision and the lack of alternative recreational activities further increase the risk of substance abuse (Hawkins et al 1992). Gang membership and participation is also seen as a risk for substance abuse. Society as a whole serves to promote reliance on alcohol, tobacco, and other drugs as an access to an exciting life. In addition, the media is also seen as a contributing factor to the growing problem in substance abuse. Advertisements tend to glamorize and sensationalize drinking, smoking and drug use in the eyes of young viewers.


Risky Decisions of Drug Use and Sex

            Irwin and Millstein (1986) attempted to explain adolescent risk taking using a model that combined both biological and psychosocial factors. According to their biopsychosocial model, the timing of biological maturation (puberty) affects the four following aspects of an individual adolescent: his or her scope (egocentrism, future orientation); his or her self-perceptions (self-esteem, body image); his or her perception of the social ennvironment (perception of parental and peer influence); and his or her personal values (desire for independence or achievement). These four factors, in turn, affect their risk perceptions (costs and benefits of options, optimistic bias and controllability) and peer group characteristics (peer age, peer values, and peer behavior). Finally, adolescents’ risk perceptions and peer group characteristics, in turn, affect their tendencies to engage in risk-taking behavior.

            The strong desire to develop intimate relationships with other adolescents sometimes overrides all other factors; even though pregnancy may not be desired, the adolescent may risk it for the sake of intimacy (Rogel et al 1980).


Part III

Programs for Improving Decision Making Skills

1. GOFER     

            GOFER stands for Goals clarification, Option generation, Fact-finding, consideration of Effects, and Review and implementation.  The Gofer course is based on Janis and Mann’s (1977) conflict theory of decision-making under stress. The course entails 40 to 50 hours of lessons that are taught over an academic year. The target audience is 15-year-olds. The course content is presented in a teacher’s manual, two textbooks, and student workbooks. One of the textbooks focuses on the basic principles of decision making and the other focuses on decision making in practice. The book on basic principles describes the nature of decision making, the GOFER strategy as a technique for making good decisions, and the problems that arise when a GOFER step is missed. In addition, students are told about the relation between self-esteem and decision making, as well as techniques for performing each of the GOFER steps in an optimal way. For example, they are told how to define problems, clarify goals, and check the reliability of information. The second textbook on decision making in practice illustrates the approach in several areas that have significance for adolescents (Byrnes 1998).

2. Personal Decision Making

            Personal decision making (Ross 1981) conceives of the decisionmaking process as involving five steps: (a) identifying a set of alternative courses of action, (b) identifying appropriate criteria, (c) evaluating alternatives by these criteria, (d) summarizing information about alternatives, and (e) self-evaluation. The program is based on an explicit descriptive theory of how untrained individuals approximate the skills used by sophisticated decision makers, identifying five developmental stages for each of these five steps. The instructional package contained 10 lessons, each requiring about one hour of class time. Detailed, virtually scripted lesson plans were constructed containing directions for teachers and students. The first lesson consisted of a pretest and a teacher-directed analysis of a typical problem designed to identify the five steps of decision making. Two lessons were devoted to each of the first three steps and one lesson was given to each of the remaining steps. The ninth and tenth lessons consisted of a review of the five steps and posttest (Ross 1981).






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