Friday, September 23, 2011

Decision making: Contradictory information

When we are presented with information that fits with our beliefs or tentative decisions we will tend to accept any information that fits and not investigate further. When presented with information that contradicts we will tend to look further and check the validity of the information.

This leads to a skewing of the information that we take in. Most information will have caveats and situations in which it does not apply. When we dig deeper we may find more information that contradicts our position but we are also bound to find information which confirms our distrust of the initial contradictory information. Of course if the initial situation concurs with our initial ideas we don’t look further and so never find any subsequent information that might contradict us.

Psychologists have shown repeatedly that when people taking part in an experiment are presented with a mixed body of information they will pick out that which confirms their beliefs and find reasons why contradictory information does not apply. In a group with opposing beliefs the same information will be interpreted by both sides as supporting their own positions.

For effective decision making we need to firstly be aware of this behaviour and then develop techniques and approaches to ensure that we investigate supporting and contradictory information to the same depth and apply objective criteria to the assessment of both type of information.