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  • John Shrawder

Decision Making – An Analytical Model

People can experience problems as simple as buying a new pair of shows or as complex as putting a man on the moon. Each problem can require a number of decisions. All people throughout history have encountered problems and made decisions in their personal and professional lives.


In 1926, psychologist Graham Wallace evaluated how people he viewed as high achievers solved problems in his book “The Art of Thought”. This was continued by Karl Duncker in his 1935 book “The Psychology of Productive Thinking”.


In the 1940’s, mathematician George Polya developed methods for solving problems in mathematics, engineering, and the sciences.


These traditions continued. In their 1972 book “Human Problem Solving”, psychologists Allen Newell and Herbert Simon tried to apply the lessons learned from the sciences and psychology to personal problem solving. This has led to a variety of problem solving and decision making models.


Diane F Halpern summarizes the latest research in her 2015 book Thought and Knowledge.


Psychologists have also developed decision making starting with Irving Janus and Leon Mann’s 1977 book, “Decision Making: A Psychological Analysis of Conflict, Choice, and Commitment”. In 1988 Mann developed a 5 phase model to teach high school students to understand decision making. He called it the G-O-F-E-R model. The letters stand for Goal, Options, Facts, Effects, Review. Each highlights a different skill necessary for making effective decisions. We will use a version of this model for now.



Problems and decisions do not proceed sequentially through the G-O-F-E-R process as shown above. Awareness of a decision or problem can start at different points as follows:

  • Start with Goals: We may intuitively feel something needs to change

  • Start with Options: We may be presented with a new viable option that should be considered

  • Start with Facts: A fact or cue may identify a problem or opportunity

  • Start with Effects: Some analysis may show we have a problem or opportunity

  • Start with Review: We may encounter new problems while implanting a previous decision

This is a general model that can be applied to specific decisions and domains. In later sections we will review other decisions making models. We will also explore topics like ethics and information criticism.


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