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There are types of decision making e.g cognitive,normative and philosophical.
What is Garbage can decision?
Society is currently at a crossroads in environmental health decision making, and there is a need to carefully examine the current paradigm and think about what science can do to improve the way decisions are made.
Think about some of the decision-making processes in which you have been involved. Do you recognise any of the following four approaches to decision making?
‘Rational up-to-a-point’ decision making
Decision making in disorder - the ‘garbage-can’ decision process
Personal beliefs approaches to decision making
Click on the links below to read more about these decision-making processes.
There are many variations on this theme. The aim is to identify and choose the best option in a particular set of circumstances by systematically going through a series of steps such as:
Consider the situation as a whole.
Identify the decision(s) that need(s) to be made.
Collect data on the range of alternatives.
Develop criteria for assessment of the alternatives.
Assess the alternatives against the criteria.
Choose one alternative.
Monitor the outcome of the decision.
In practice, you will rarely be making a decision in a static situation and may need several iterations of this type of process before you reach a decision.
In situations where there is more uncertainty and limited data available it might only be possible or desirable to approach certain stages of the decision-making process rationally.
For example, you are allocating some small grants for local community improvements. You assess the proposals systematically and still end up with six very worthy projects from which you can choose only one. Some people would claim that you could continue to apply rational choice by going through further iterations of developing criteria and collecting data.
Another approach would be to select one of the final six quite randomly, as any of them would satisfice (represent an adequate or ‘good enough’ decision) at least from the perspective of those disbursing the grants.
The garbage-can metaphor (developed by James March) describes the messy, complex and disordered way in which, at a particular moment in time, all decision makers are simultaneously involved in a range of activities and not just in a single decision-making process. These concurrent activities are all thrown together in the minds of decision makers, like in the jumble of a garbage can.
March suggests that in such messy situations particular ‘problems’ and ‘solutions’ often become attached to each other because of their spatial and/or temporal proximity to each other, not because of rational choice. This implies that understanding why decisions are made in one area frequently requires an understanding of what is going on elsewhere at the same time.
There are many personal theories and beliefs around decision making, based on an individual’s experiences of decisions. Here are just a few:
‘... toss a coin to make the decision, if you then want to make it the best of three you know which decision you want to make’
‘... better to make any decision than no decision at all’
‘... you can tell whether it’s the “right” decision by how you feel about it’.
Although decision makers try to be rational, in a particular context, they are constrained by limited cognitive capabilities and incomplete information, so although they often intend to be rational, their actions are often less than rational. Not being entirely rational is just part of being human!