Phases of Decision Making –  Phases not steps emphasize the flexibility of this process


Phase 1- Recognizing and Defining the Problem – problem solving begins with the recognition of a problem – def- when a person has a need or questions but no obvious answer for it.  Pre-existing condition  - a felt uneasiness-discomfort.  You just feel that something is wrong. Once a problem is recognized it should be carefully defined.  If you don’t define the problem accurately then the problem is not likely to be solved.  This is often the most difficult aspect of the problem solving enterprise. However even If we start with the wrong  definition of the problem the remaining phases may help us correct the  error. Scientific reasoning is self-corrective. We will look at some of the hindrances to this process through out this course.


Three general rules for the formation of an accurate and adequate definition. Use handgun violence, death of young teens , gun control issues as example of bad definitions  (a) The definition should not be too general – The definition sets guidelines for the succeeding phases of the process – if too broad the investigation may flounder – large problems may be very real but they may need to be broken down into smaller clearly defined segments. We may get over whelmed and just quit or just get bogged down. (b) The definition should not be too specific – A definition of a problem is too specific or narrow when it restricts alternative solutions.  When we discuss dilemmas this problem will become very apparent. (c) The definition should not itself constitute a “solution” to the problem – Very often definitions that are in themselves solutions have the fault of being too specific. – This error dictates that only one solution is acceptable.  b and c are often collapsible but c is a little more narrow so we add this extra category.


Phase 2 – Gathering information – Once the problem is defined you should begin to gather information relevant to the solution of the problem as defined. Some of the information may be presented to you directly. The remaining pieces of information may have to be reseaerched. Clues, data, facts are terms used to describe the information being gathered.(depends upon the scientific discipline) Adequate and accurate information is essential to sound decisions. The information gathered must also be relevant to the problem  - as defined in phase 1. In general the more pertinent information one has the more likely it is that the decision will be sound. We will pay special attention to the problems invoked by prejudice. One of the key factors in this phase is the deliberate attempt to be objective.  The scientist must deliberately gather unpalatable information.  It is not good enough to merely gather information with which  (s)he feels comfortable. Investigating sources that one finds himself or her self in disagreement is a good starting point.  The limitations imposed upon the investigator by his or her world view is minimized to the degree that the investigator expands his or her  frame of reference and initially restricts the influences of the his or her self-concept and values.


Phase 3 – Forming tentative conclusions (solutions) – Hypothesis –tentative conclusions  represent solutions to the problem as defined.  You can begin doing this as soon as you have enough information to suggest some possible answers.  The objective of this phase is not to settle on one conclusion but rather to formulate many plausible ones.  The more the better.  This is the best safeguard against the dangers of accepting and acting upon a proposed solution without adequate evidence.  Brain storming.  The question of serendipity.  Serendipity -  n : accidental sagacity; the faculty of making fortunate discoveries of things you were not looking for – creative thinking –– good guesses – Primarily creative – Often blinded by presupposition (can’t work) and prejudice –Keeping an open mind – investigating all possible avenues.  Discarding old ways of doing things. 3 guidelines for forming hypotheses:

  1. The hypotheses should have a direct connection to the problem that was defined in phase 1.  It should help to solve the problem as defined.  The hypotheses formed should organize and connect the data(evidence) collected in the 2nd phase of problem solving.  We will discuss the effects of unexplained evidence on the reliability of a hypothesis.
  2. In general the more hypotheses we form the more likely it is that a solution that will solve the problem will be found.  It is important that we don’t limit ourselves to a single hypothesis.  When we do there exist a high degree of probability that we will exclude a possible solution that would be more acceptable. Inductive investigations will more likely suffer when there is a shortage of workable solutions than when there is an overabundance.  However, we must be careful not to get too overzealous in the aspect of our investigation. Questions of expediency and economy are of utmost concern.  These questions should be addressed in phase 1 of the problem solving method.The informal fallacy of decision by indecision is a real possibility.  The main concern with the formation of multiple hypotheses is that the investigator/scientist must insure that some of the hypotheses that are formed are rivals.  That is, if one of the hypotheses is true then the other must be false. This is another safeguard assisting the problem solver in the quest for objectivity. The hypotheses must be relevant to the problem as it is defined in phases 1.  Summary: Form many, plausible, relevant hypotheses, some which are rivals.


Phase 4 – Testing Tentative Conclusions –The objective of the 4th phase is to criticize tentative solutions by assessing their reliability..  All tentative conclusion are reached through some sort of inference. DEF. “ An inference is a process of reasoning by which conclusions are derived from evidence or available facts.” Although a conclusion could be proven to be true it could be unreliable.  Emphasis on the process.  A conclusion is completely reliable only when it is known to be true.  Throughout human history we have been notoriously careless in testing our conclusions.  All conclusions should be tested for reliability. There will be more discussion of this topic during the lecture on “ evaluation of evidence from authority”.The claim “I saw it with my own eyes” will be evaluated.  Cp  Body Ritual of the Nacarima.- problem of ethnocentricity.  There exists a problem created by our desires to protect our cherished beliefs.  Discuss -our belief system- later- How our point of view changes.  The testing carried on in this phase of problem solving is a mental testing.  There is an evaluation of consequences, possible outcomes.  We must consider long-range consequences as well as short-range consequences.  We will also develop tools to test the deductive validity of our arguments and the truth of our conclusions.


Phase 5 – Evaluation and Decision – The objective of the 5th phase is to determine whether you have found any workable solutions, and if so, to select the best one and implement it. Completely (100%) successful solutions are rare.  The best we can hope for is a high degree of reliability.  Quote from William James, “Ideas must bake bread” Conclusions true beyond a reasonable doubt is our goal. The various degrees of reliability will be discussed.  If we delay making a decision until we reach absolutely reliability we condemn ourselves to the fallacy of “ making a decision by indecision”.  A key point is that as long as there exists a rival hypothesis that is better than false beyond a reasonable doubt we can never claim that our selected hypothesis is true beyond a reasonable doubt


Phase 6 – Publish – Not listed in the text – Publish our results and opening them up to an unbiased observer can be as simple as talking to a friend or publishing in a technical journal.  Whatever the forum, it is always good to get feedback. Publishing adds a social dimension.  Different perspectives – (Discuss the reality of human perspective)  Publishing is not only helpful in the sense that others may gain a solution to a problem that plagues them but also provides a forum for rival hypotheses. Tom Louvier made an observation concerning the nature of the idea of "publishing". Tom's concern was that publishing , at least on the surface, contains a very prohibitive feeling. Its sounds so formal and forbidding. He observed that publishing can also include Socratic dialouge. Talking to a friend is informal. Socratic dialogue is somewhat formal. Publication in a journal is very formal. Publishing enables us to minimize the limiting effects of our frame of reference (next discussion) This is extremely important when it comes to publishing in a professional journal. There your work is subjected to a jury of your peers in the field. This will later assume added importance when questioning evidence supplied by authorities. We will soon be discussing the limiting factors of our personal point of view.