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Decision making and psychological traps

Psychological traps happen to affect almost everybody irrespective of the patience and intelligence they may possess. Traps are known to affect even the most brilliant and methodical people. The good thing, or maybe bad thing, is that positive outcomes can result from bad decision making. On the other hand there can be negative outcomes resulting from good decisions (Roberto 57). We can be able to make good decisions if we are able to eliminate the traps and biases. Through this we can be almost assured of positive outcomes in comparison to negative results throughout the decision making process in our life. There are different ways in which psychological traps affect the decisions we make.

First we shall look at the anchor trap. This is where there will always be anchoring of an initial situation to subsequent situations regardless of the data from the initial decision. The decision maker tends to peg a current decision on past experience. The past experience acts as an anchor to the decision made in a certain current case. A decision maker might base his or her decision on past success without considering the dynamics of the past success. This past success anchors on the current decision. The decision maker tends to ignore other factors and to put too much weight on past results. Anchors may lead to poor decision making especially in situations of rapid changes.

Secondly there is the status quo trap. This is where the decision maker tends to take too much comfort in a status quo at the expense of making an informed decision. There is always a tendency for decision makers to hang on to a status quo and to keep postponing making serious decisions. As the number of alternatives at the exposal of a decision maker increases, so does the likely hood of that individual sticking to a certain status quo. For instance Mac Arthur rides on the status quo while making the decision to use the US force to seize the Yalu river borders. This was despite the chiefs’ concern. Mac Arthur’s decision was clouded by the status quo trap in viewing the superiority of the US force in comparison to the Korean force.

Decision makers may also be faced with the challenge of the sunk cost trap. This is where decision makers allow past mistakes in the decision making process to cloud their current decision making. At times a decision maker may allow a wrong decision to influence the decision he or she makes currently. Often decision makers find themselves making a wrong decision in an attempt to cover up for a wrong decision made in the past. Wrong decisions should not influence the decisions we make in the present because they only serve to make the error more complex.

Fourthly, the decisions made can be affected by the confirm evidence trap. This is where decision makers base their decisions on other peoples’ rationales and actions. Here decision makers go towards the information that favors the decisions they tend to make as compared to that which is in contradiction to what their intentions are. Decision makers tend to base their decisions on what they are attracted to as compared to what they dislike. A good example in the case study on Korea 1950 is where Willoughby believed that the Chinese were not supposed to be part of the war in Korea simply because Mac Arthur was not in support of their entry. So the decisions made by Willoughby were affected by what Mac Arthur decided.

Finally a decision made may be affected by the framing trap. Majority of people are known to accept risks only if the decisions they have to make are related to making gains. On the other hand, decision makers will only be seekers of risk if the decision they have to make involves making losses. People have the tendency of taking up a problem only as it is presented to them instead of converting the problem into their own problem and finding their own way out of the problem.




Rielly, Bob. ‘Defeat From Victory: Korea 1950’. Bob Rielly. 1st ed. 2012. Print.

Roberto, Michael A. The Art of Critical Decision Making. Chantilly, VA: Teaching Co., 2009. Print.

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