Decision making

Decision making

Overview
Decision making can be regarded as the mental processes (cognitive process
Cognition
In science, cognition refers to mental processes. These processes include attention, remembering, producing and understanding language, solving problems, and making decisions. Cognition is studied in various disciplines such as psychology, philosophy, linguistics, and computer science...

) resulting in the selection of a course of action among several alternative scenarios. Every decision making process produces a final choice
Choice
Choice consists of the mental process of judging the merits of multiple options and selecting one of them. While a choice can be made between imagined options , often a choice is made between real options, and followed by the corresponding action...

. The output can be an action or an opinion of choice.

Human performance in decision terms has been the subject of active research from several perspectives. From a psychological perspective, it is necessary to examine individual decisions in the context of a set of needs, preferences an individual has and values they seek.
Discussion
Ask a question about 'Decision making'
Start a new discussion about 'Decision making'
Answer questions from other users
Full Discussion Forum
 
Unanswered Questions
Recent Discussions
Encyclopedia
Decision making can be regarded as the mental processes (cognitive process
Cognition
In science, cognition refers to mental processes. These processes include attention, remembering, producing and understanding language, solving problems, and making decisions. Cognition is studied in various disciplines such as psychology, philosophy, linguistics, and computer science...

) resulting in the selection of a course of action among several alternative scenarios. Every decision making process produces a final choice
Choice
Choice consists of the mental process of judging the merits of multiple options and selecting one of them. While a choice can be made between imagined options , often a choice is made between real options, and followed by the corresponding action...

. The output can be an action or an opinion of choice.

Overview


Human performance in decision terms has been the subject of active research from several perspectives. From a psychological perspective, it is necessary to examine individual decisions in the context of a set of needs, preferences an individual has and values they seek. From a cognitive perspective, the decision making process must be regarded as a continuous process integrated in the interaction with the environment. From a normative
Normative
Normative has specialized contextual meanings in several academic disciplines. Generically, it means relating to an ideal standard or model. In practice, it has strong connotations of relating to a typical standard or model ....

 perspective, the analysis of individual decisions is concerned with the logic of decision making
Communicative rationality
Communicative rationality, or communicative reason, is a theory or set of theories which describes human rationality as a necessary outcome of successful communication. In particular, it is tied to the philosophy of Karl-Otto Apel, Jürgen Habermas, and their program of universal pragmatics, along...

 and rationality and the invariant choice it leads to.

Yet, at another level, it might be regarded as a problem solving activity which is terminated when a satisfactory solution is reached. Therefore, decision making is a reasoning or emotional process which can be rational
Rationality
In philosophy, rationality is the exercise of reason. It is the manner in which people derive conclusions when considering things deliberately. It also refers to the conformity of one's beliefs with one's reasons for belief, or with one's actions with one's reasons for action...

 or irrational
Irrationality
Irrationality is cognition, thinking, talking or acting without inclusion of rationality. It is more specifically described as an action or opinion given through inadequate reasoning, emotional distress, or cognitive deficiency...

, can be based on explicit assumptions or tacit assumptions
Tacit assumptions
A tacit assumption or implicit assumption is an assumption that includes the underlying agreements or statements made in the development of a logical argument, course of action, decision, or judgment that are not explicitly voiced nor necessarily understood by the decision maker or judge...

.

One must keep in mind that most decisions are made unconsciously. Jim Nightingale, Author of Think Smart-Act Smart, states that "we simply decide without thinking much about the decision process." In a controlled environment, such as a classroom, instructors encourage students to weigh pros and cons before making a decision. However in the real world, most of our decisions are made unconsciously in our mind because frankly, it would take too much time to sit down and list the pros and cons of each decision we must make on a daily basis.

Logical decision making is an important part of all science-based professions, where specialists apply their knowledge
Knowledge
Knowledge is a familiarity with someone or something unknown, which can include information, facts, descriptions, or skills acquired through experience or education. It can refer to the theoretical or practical understanding of a subject...

 in a given area to making informed decisions. For example, medical decision making often involves making a diagnosis
Medical diagnosis
Medical diagnosis refers both to the process of attempting to determine or identify a possible disease or disorder , and to the opinion reached by this process...

 and selecting an appropriate treatment. Some research using naturalistic methods
Naturalistic decision making
The naturalistic decision making framework emerged as a means of studying how people actually make decisions and perform cognitively complex functions in demanding situations...

 shows, however, that in situations with higher time pressure, higher stakes, or increased ambiguities, experts use intuitive decision making rather than structured approaches, following a recognition primed decision
Recognition primed decision
Recognition-primed decision is a model of how people make quick, effective decisions when faced with complex situations. In this model, the decision maker is assumed to generate a possible course of action, compare it to the constraints imposed by the situation, and select the first course of...

 approach to fit a set of indicators into the expert's experience and immediately arrive at a satisfactory course of action without weighing alternatives. Recent robust decision
Robust decision
Robust decision is a term dating back to the late 1990s. It is used to identify decisions made with a process that includes formal consideration of uncertainty...

 efforts have formally integrated uncertainty
Uncertainty
Uncertainty is a term used in subtly different ways in a number of fields, including physics, philosophy, statistics, economics, finance, insurance, psychology, sociology, engineering, and information science...

 into the decision making process. However, Decision Analysis
Decision analysis
Decision analysis is the discipline comprising the philosophy, theory, methodology, and professional practice necessary to address important decisions in a formal manner...

, recognized and included uncertainties with a structured and rationally justifiable method of decision making since its conception in 1964.

A major part of decision making involves the analysis of a finite set of alternatives described in terms of some evaluative criteria. These criteria may be benefit or cost in nature. Then the problem might be to rank these alternatives in terms of how attractive they are to the decision maker(s) when all the criteria are considered simultaneously. Another goal might be to just find the best alternative or to determine the relative total priority of each alternative (for instance, if alternatives represent projects competing for funds) when all the criteria are considered simultaneously. Solving such problems is the focus of multi-criteria decision analysis
Multi-Criteria Decision Analysis
Multiple-criteria decision-making or multiple-criteria decision analysis is a sub-discipline of operations research that explicitly considers multiple criteria in decision-making environments. Whether in our daily lives or in professional settings, there are typically multiple conflicting criteria...

 (MCDA) also known as multi-criteria decision making (MCDM). This area of decision making, although it is very old and has attracted the interest of many researchers and practitioners, is still highly debated as there are many MCDA / MCDM methods which may yield very different results when they are applied on exactly the same data. This leads to the formulation of a decision making paradox
Decision making paradox
The word paradox comes from the Greek words "para" and "doksa" or "doxa"...

.

Problem Analysis vs Decision Making


It is important to differentiate between problem analysis and decision making. The concepts are completely separate from one another. Problem analysis must be done first, then the information gathered in that process may be used towards decision making.

Problem Analysis
  • Analyze performance, what should the results be against what they actually are
  • Problems are merely deviations from performance standards
  • Problem must be precisely identified and described
  • Problems are caused by some change from a distinctive feature
  • Something can always be used to distinguish between what has and hasn't been effected by a cause
  • Causes to problems can be deducted from relevant changes found in analyzing the problem
  • Most likely cause to a problem is the one that exactly explains all the facts


Decision Making
  • Objectives must first be established
  • Objectives must be classified and placed in order of importance
  • Alternative actions must be developed
  • The alternative must be evaluated against all the objectives
  • The alternative that is able to achieve all the objectives is the tentative decision
  • The tentative decision is evaluated for more possible consequences
  • The decisive actions are taken, and additional actions are taken to prevent any adverse consequences from becoming problems and starting both systems (problem analysis and decision making) all over again
  • There are steps that are generally followed that result in a decision model that can be used to determine an optimal production plan.

Everyday techniques


Some of the decision making techniques people use in everyday life include:
  • Pros and Cons: Listing the advantages and disadvantages of each option, popularized by Plato
    Plato
    Plato , was a Classical Greek philosopher, mathematician, student of Socrates, writer of philosophical dialogues, and founder of the Academy in Athens, the first institution of higher learning in the Western world. Along with his mentor, Socrates, and his student, Aristotle, Plato helped to lay the...

     and Benjamin Franklin
    Benjamin Franklin
    Dr. Benjamin Franklin was one of the Founding Fathers of the United States. A noted polymath, Franklin was a leading author, printer, political theorist, politician, postmaster, scientist, musician, inventor, satirist, civic activist, statesman, and diplomat...

  • Simple Prioritization
    Simple Prioritization
    Simple prioritizationDecision matrixA decision-support tool allowing decision makers to solve their problem by evaluating, rating, and comparing different alternatives on multiple criteria.Multi-criteria decision-making...

    : Choosing the alternative with the highest probability-weighted utility
    Utility
    In economics, utility is a measure of customer satisfaction, referring to the total satisfaction received by a consumer from consuming a good or service....

     for each alternative (see Decision Analysis
    Decision analysis
    Decision analysis is the discipline comprising the philosophy, theory, methodology, and professional practice necessary to address important decisions in a formal manner...

    )
  • Satisficing
    Satisficing
    Satisficing, a portmanteau "combining satisfy with suffice", is a decision-making strategy that attempts to meet criteria for adequacy, rather than to identify an optimal solution...

    : using the first acceptable option found
  • Acquiesce to a person in authority or an "expert", just following orders
    Superior Orders
    Superior orders is a plea in a court of law that a soldier not be held guilty for actions which were ordered by a superior office...

  • Flipism
    Flipism
    Flipism, sometimes written as "Flippism," is a pseudophilosophy under which all decisions are made by flipping a coin. It originally appeared in the Disney comic "Flip Decision" by Carl Barks, published in 1953...

    : Flipping a coin, cutting a deck of playing cards, and other random or coincidence methods
  • Prayer
    Prayer
    Prayer is a form of religious practice that seeks to activate a volitional rapport to a deity through deliberate practice. Prayer may be either individual or communal and take place in public or in private. It may involve the use of words or song. When language is used, prayer may take the form of...

    , tarot
    Tarot
    The tarot |trionfi]] and later as tarocchi, tarock, and others) is a pack of cards , used from the mid-15th century in various parts of Europe to play a group of card games such as Italian tarocchini and French tarot...

     cards, astrology
    Astrology
    Astrology consists of a number of belief systems which hold that there is a relationship between astronomical phenomena and events in the human world...

    , augurs, revelation
    Revelation
    In religion and theology, revelation is the revealing or disclosing, through active or passive communication with a supernatural or a divine entity...

    , or other forms of divination
    Divination
    Divination is the attempt to gain insight into a question or situation by way of an occultic standardized process or ritual...

  • Taking the most opposite action compared to the advice of mistrusted authorities (parents, police officers, partners ...)

Decision-Making Stages


Developed by B. Aubrey Fisher, there are four stages that should be involved in all group decision making. These stages, or sometimes called phases, are important for the decision-making process to begin

Orientation stage- This phase is where members meet for the first time and start to get to know each other.

Conflict stage- Once group members become familiar with each other, disputes, little fights and arguments occur. Group members eventually work it out.

Emergence stage- The group begins to clear up vague opinions by talking about them.

Reinforcement stage- Members finally make a decision, while justifying themselves that it was the right decision.

Decision-Making Steps


Each step in the decision making process includes social, cognitive and cultural obstacles to successfully negotiating dilemmas. Becoming more aware of these obstacles allows one to better anticipate and overcome them. Pijanowski (2009, p.7) developed eight stages of decision making based on the work of James Rest
James Rest
James Rest was a professor with the Department of Educational Psychology for the University of Minnesota. In 1982 he helped formally establish the Center for the Study of Ethical Development along with colleagues Muriel Bebeau, Darcia Narvaez and Steve Thoma...

:
  1. Establishing community: creating and nurturing the relationships, norms, and procedures that will influence how problems are understood and communicated. This stage takes place prior to and during a moral dilemma
  2. Perception: recognizing that a problem exists
  3. Interpretation: identifying competing explanations for the problem, and evaluating the drivers behind those interpretations
  4. Judgment: sifting through various possible actions or responses and determining which is more justifiable
  5. Motivation: examining the competing commitments which may distract from a more moral course of action and then prioritizing and committing to moral values over other personal, institutional or social values
  6. Action: following through with action that supports the more justified decision. Integrity is supported by the ability to overcome distractions and obstacles, developing implementing skills, and ego strength
  7. Reflection in action
  8. Reflection on action


When in an organization and faced with a difficult decision, there are several steps one can take to ensure the best possible solutions will be decided. These steps are put into seven effective ways to go about this decision making process (McMahon 2007).

The first step - Outline your goal and outcome. This will enable decision makers to see exactly what they are trying to accomplish and keep them on a specific path.

The second step - Gather data. This will help decision makers have actual evidence to help them come up with a solution.

The third step - Brainstorm to develop alternatives. Coming up with more than one solution enables you to see which one can actually work.

The fourth step - List pros and cons of each alternative. With the list of pros and cons, you can eliminate the solutions that have more cons than pros, making your decision easier.

The fifth step - Make the decision. Once you analyze each solution, you should pick the one that has many pros (or the pros that are most significant), and is a solution that everyone can agree with.

The sixth step - Immediately take action. Once the decision is picked, you should implement it right away.

The seventh step - Learn from, and reflect on the decision making. This step allows you to see what you did right and wrong when coming up, and putting the decision to use.

Cognitive and personal biases


Bias
Bias
Bias is an inclination to present or hold a partial perspective at the expense of alternatives. Bias can come in many forms.-In judgement and decision making:...

es can creep into our decision making processes. Many different people have made a decision about the same question (e.g. "Should I have a doctor look at this troubling breast cancer symptom I've discovered?" "Why did I ignore the evidence that the project was going over budget?") and then craft potential cognitive interventions aimed at improving decision making outcomes.

Below is a list of some of the more commonly debated cognitive biases.
  • Selective search for evidence
    Evidence
    Evidence in its broadest sense includes everything that is used to determine or demonstrate the truth of an assertion. Giving or procuring evidence is the process of using those things that are either presumed to be true, or were themselves proven via evidence, to demonstrate an assertion's truth...

     (a.k.a. Confirmation bias
    Confirmation bias
    Confirmation bias is a tendency for people to favor information that confirms their preconceptions or hypotheses regardless of whether the information is true.David Perkins, a geneticist, coined the term "myside bias" referring to a preference for "my" side of an issue...

     in psychology) (Scott Plous
    Scott Plous
    Scott Plous, Ph.D., is a Professor of Psychology at the Department of Psychology of Wesleyan University. He is also a Faculty Associate of the Tufts University Center for Animals and Public Policy and founder of the Social Psychology Network....

    , 1993) – We tend to be willing to gather facts that support certain conclusions but disregard other facts that support different conclusions. Individuals who are highly defensive in this manner show significantly greater left prefrontal cortex activity as measured by EEG than do less defensive individuals.
  • Premature termination of search for evidence – We tend to accept the first alternative that looks like it might work.
  • Inertia
    Cognitive inertia
    Cognitive inertia refers the tendency for beliefs or sets of beliefs to endure once formed. In particular, cognitive inertia describes the human inclination to rely on familiar assumptions and exhibit a reluctance and/or inability to revise those assumptions, even when the evidence supporting them...

     – Unwillingness to change thought patterns that we have used in the past in the face of new circumstances.
  • Selective perception – We actively screen-out information that we do not think is important. (See prejudice
    Prejudice
    Prejudice is making a judgment or assumption about someone or something before having enough knowledge to be able to do so with guaranteed accuracy, or "judging a book by its cover"...

    .) In one demonstration of this effect, discounting of arguments with which one disagrees (by judging them as untrue or irrelevant) was decreased by selective activation of right prefrontal cortex.
  • Wishful thinking
    Wishful thinking
    Wishful thinking is the formation of beliefs and making decisions according to what might be pleasing to imagine instead of by appealing to evidence, rationality or reality...

     or optimism bias
    Optimism bias
    Optimism bias is the demonstrated systematic tendency for people to be overly optimistic about the outcome of planned actions. This includes over-estimating the likelihood of positive events and under-estimating the likelihood of negative events. Along with the illusion of control and illusory...

     – We tend to want to see things in a positive light and this can distort our perception and thinking.
  • Choice-supportive bias
    Choice-supportive bias
    In cognitive science, choice-supportive bias is the tendency to retroactively ascribe positive attributes to an option one has selected. It is a cognitive bias....

     occurs when we distort our memories of chosen and rejected options to make the chosen options seem more attractive.
  • Recency – We tend to place more attention on more recent information and either ignore or forget more distant information. (See semantic priming.) The opposite effect in the first set of data or other information is termed Primacy effect (Plous, 1993).
  • Repetition bias – A willingness to believe what we have been told most often and by the greatest number of different sources.
  • Anchoring and adjustment – Decisions are unduly influenced by initial information that shapes our view of subsequent information.
  • Group think – Peer pressure
    Peer pressure
    Peer pressure refers to the influence exerted by a peer group in encouraging a person to change his or her attitudes, values, or behavior in order to conform to group norms. Social groups affected include membership groups, when the individual is "formally" a member , or a social clique...

     to conform to the opinions held by the group.
  • Source credibility bias – We reject something if we have a bias against the person, organization, or group to which the person belongs: We are inclined to accept a statement by someone we like. (See prejudice
    Prejudice
    Prejudice is making a judgment or assumption about someone or something before having enough knowledge to be able to do so with guaranteed accuracy, or "judging a book by its cover"...

    .)
  • Incremental decision making and escalating commitment – We look at a decision as a small step in a process and this tends to perpetuate a series of similar decisions. This can be contrasted with zero-based decision making. (See slippery slope
    Slippery slope
    In debate or rhetoric, a slippery slope is a classic form of argument, arguably an informal fallacy...

    .)
  • Attribution asymmetry – We tend to attribute our success to our abilities and talents, but we attribute our failures to bad luck and external factors. We attribute other's success to good luck, and their failures to their mistakes.
  • Role fulfillment (Self Fulfilling Prophecy) – We conform to the decision making expectations that others have of someone in our position.
  • Underestimating uncertainty
    Uncertainty
    Uncertainty is a term used in subtly different ways in a number of fields, including physics, philosophy, statistics, economics, finance, insurance, psychology, sociology, engineering, and information science...

     and the illusion of control – We tend to underestimate future uncertainty
    Uncertainty
    Uncertainty is a term used in subtly different ways in a number of fields, including physics, philosophy, statistics, economics, finance, insurance, psychology, sociology, engineering, and information science...

     because we tend to believe we have more control over events than we really do. We believe we have control to minimize potential problems in our decisions.
  • Framing bias is best avoided by using numeracy
    Numeracy
    Numeracy is the ability to reason with numbers and other mathematical concepts. A numerically literate person can manage and respond to the mathematical demands of life...

     with absolute measures of efficacy.


Reference class forecasting
Reference class forecasting
Reference class forecasting is the method of predicting the future, through looking at similar past situations and their outcomes.Reference class forcasting predicts the outcome of a planned action based on actual outcomes in a reference class of similar actions to that being forecast. The theories...

 was developed to eliminate or reduce cognitive biases in decision making.

Post decision analysis


Evaluation and analysis of past decisions is complementary to decision making; see also mental accounting
Mental accounting
A concept first named by Richard Thaler , mental accounting attempts to describe the process whereby people code, categorize and evaluate economic outcomes....

.

Influence of Briggs Myers type


According to behavioralist Isabel Briggs Myers
Isabel Briggs Myers
Isabel Briggs Myers was an American psychological theorist. She was co-creator, with her mother, of the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator ....

, a person's decision making process depends to a significant degree on their cognitive style. Myers developed a set of four bi-polar dimensions, called the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator
Myers-Briggs Type Indicator
The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator assessment is a psychometric questionnaire designed to measure psychological preferences in how people perceive the world and make decisions...

 (MBTI). The terminal points on these dimensions are: thinking and feeling; extroversion and introversion; judgment and perception; and sensing and intuition. She claimed that a person's decision making style correlates well with how they score on these four dimensions. For example, someone who scored near the thinking, extroversion, sensing, and judgment ends of the dimensions would tend to have a logical, analytical, objective, critical, and empirical decision making style. However, some psychologists say that the MBTI lacks reliability and validity and is poorly constructed.

Other studies suggest that these national or cross-cultural differences exist across entire societies. For example, Maris Martinsons
Maris Martinsons
Maris Martinsons is director of the Pacific Rim Institute for the Studies of Management and a professor of management currently associated with the City University of Hong Kong, the Stockholm School of Economics and the University of Toronto. He received his B.A.Sc. and M.B.A. degrees from the...

 has found that American, Japanese and Chinese business leaders each exhibit a distinctive national style of decision making.

Optimizing vs. satisficing


Herbert Simon
Herbert Simon
Herbert Alexander Simon was an American political scientist, economist, sociologist, and psychologist, and professor—most notably at Carnegie Mellon University—whose research ranged across the fields of cognitive psychology, cognitive science, computer science, public administration, economics,...

 coined the phrase "bounded rationality
Bounded rationality
Bounded rationality is the idea that in decision making, rationality of individuals is limited by the information they have, the cognitive limitations of their minds, and the finite amount of time they have to make a decision...

" to express the idea that human decision-making is limited by available information, available time, and the information-processing ability of the mind. Simon also defined two cognitive styles: maximizers try to make an optimal decision
Optimal decision
An optimal decision is a decision such that no other available decision options will lead to a better outcome. It is an important concept in decision theory. In order to compare the different decision outcomes, one commonly assigns a relative utility to each of them...

, whereas satisficers simply try to find a solution that is "good enough". Maximizers tend to take longer making decisions due to the need to maximize performance across all variables and make tradeoffs carefully; they also tend to more often regret their decisions (perhaps because they are more able than satisficers to recognise that a decision turned out to be sub-optimal).

Combinatoral vs. positional


Styles and methods of decision making were elaborated by the founder of Predispositioning Theory
Predispositioning Theory
Predispositioning theory in the field of decision theory and systems theory is a theory, that focused on the intermediate stage between a complete order and a complete disorder....

, Aron Katsenelinboigen
Aron Katsenelinboigen
Aron Katsenelinboigen, , a founder of Predispositioning Theory, was born in September 1927 in a Ukrainian town of Izyaslavl.-Background :...

. In his analysis on styles and methods Katsenelinboigen referred to the game of chess, saying that “chess does disclose various methods of operation, notably the creation of predisposition—methods which may be applicable to other, more complex systems.”

In his book Katsenelinboigen states that apart from the methods (reactive and selective) and sub-methods (randomization, predispositioning, programming), there are two major styles – positional and combinational. Both styles are utilized in the game of chess. According to Katsenelinboigen, the two styles reflect two basic approaches to the uncertainty
Uncertainty
Uncertainty is a term used in subtly different ways in a number of fields, including physics, philosophy, statistics, economics, finance, insurance, psychology, sociology, engineering, and information science...

: deterministic (combinational style) and indeterministic (positional style). Katsenelinboigen’s definition of the two styles are the following.

The combinational style is characterized by
  • a very narrow, clearly defined, primarily material goal, and
  • a program that links the initial position with the final outcome.


In defining the combinational style in chess, Katsenelinboigen writes:

The combinational style features a clearly formulated limited objective, namely the capture of material (the main constituent element of a chess position). The objective is implemented via a well-defined and in some cases in a unique sequence of moves aimed at reaching the set goal. As a rule, this sequence leaves no options for the opponent. Finding a combinational objective allows the player to focus all his energies on efficient execution, that is, the player’s analysis may be limited to the pieces directly partaking in the combination. This approach is the crux of the combination and the combinational style of play.

The positional style is distinguished by
  • a positional goal and
  • a formation of semi-complete linkages between the initial step and final outcome.

“Unlike the combinational player, the positional player is occupied, first and foremost, with the elaboration of the position that will allow him to develop in the unknown future. In playing the positional style, the player must evaluate relational and material parameters as independent variables. ( … ) The positional style gives the player the opportunity to develop a position until it becomes pregnant with a combination. However, the combination is not the final goal of the positional player—it helps him to achieve the desirable, keeping in mind a predisposition for the future development. The Pyrrhic victory
Pyrrhic victory
A Pyrrhic victory is a victory with such a devastating cost to the victor that it carries the implication that another such victory will ultimately cause defeat.-Origin:...

 is the best example of one’s inability to think positionally.”

The positional style serves to

a) create a predisposition to the future development of the position;

b) induce the environment in a certain way;

c) absorb an unexpected outcome in one’s favor;

d) avoid the negative aspects of unexpected outcomes.

Katsenelinboigen writes:

“As the game progressed and defense became more sophisticated the combinational style of play declined. . . . The positional style of chess does not eliminate the combinational one with its attempt to see the entire program of action in advance. The positional style merely prepares the transformation to a combination when the latter becomes feasible.”

Neuroscience perspective


The anterior cingulate cortex
Anterior cingulate cortex
The anterior cingulate cortex is the frontal part of the cingulate cortex, that resembles a "collar" form around the corpus callosum, the fibrous bundle that relays neural signals between the right and left cerebral hemispheres of the brain...

 (ACC), orbitofrontal cortex
Orbitofrontal cortex
The orbitofrontal cortex is a prefrontal cortex region in the frontal lobes in the brain which is involved in the cognitive processing of decision-making...

 (and the overlapping ventromedial prefrontal cortex
Ventromedial prefrontal cortex
The ventromedial prefrontal cortex is a part of the prefrontal cortex in the mammalian brain. The ventral medial prefrontal is located in the frontal lobe and is implicated in the processing of risk, fear, and in decision making.- Anatomy :...

) are brain regions involved in decision making processes. A recent neuroimaging
Neuroimaging
Neuroimaging includes the use of various techniques to either directly or indirectly image the structure, function/pharmacology of the brain...

 study found distinctive patterns of neural activation in these regions depending on whether decisions were made on the basis of personal volition
Volition (psychology)
Volition or will is the cognitive process by which an individual decides on and commits to a particular course of action. It is defined as purposive striving, and is one of the primary human psychological functions...

 or following directions from someone else. Patients with damage to the ventromedial prefrontal cortex
Ventromedial prefrontal cortex
The ventromedial prefrontal cortex is a part of the prefrontal cortex in the mammalian brain. The ventral medial prefrontal is located in the frontal lobe and is implicated in the processing of risk, fear, and in decision making.- Anatomy :...

 have difficulty making advantageous decisions.

A recent study involving Rhesus monkeys found that neurons in the parietal cortex not only represent the formation of a decision but also signal the degree of certainty (or "confidence") associated with the decision. Another recent study found that lesions to the ACC in the macaque
Macaque
The macaques constitute a genus of Old World monkeys of the subfamily Cercopithecinae. - Description :Aside from humans , the macaques are the most widespread primate genus, ranging from Japan to Afghanistan and, in the case of the barbary macaque, to North Africa...

 resulted in impaired decision making in the long run of reinforcement guided tasks suggesting that the ACC may be involved in evaluating past reinforcement information and guiding future action.

Emotion
Emotion
Emotion is a complex psychophysiological experience of an individual's state of mind as interacting with biochemical and environmental influences. In humans, emotion fundamentally involves "physiological arousal, expressive behaviors, and conscious experience." Emotion is associated with mood,...

 appears to aid the decision making process: Decision making often occurs in the face of uncertainty
Uncertainty
Uncertainty is a term used in subtly different ways in a number of fields, including physics, philosophy, statistics, economics, finance, insurance, psychology, sociology, engineering, and information science...

 about whether one's choices will lead to benefit or harm (see also Risk
Risk
Risk is the potential that a chosen action or activity will lead to a loss . The notion implies that a choice having an influence on the outcome exists . Potential losses themselves may also be called "risks"...

). The somatic-marker hypothesis is a neurobiological theory of how decisions are made in the face of uncertain outcome. This theory holds that such decisions are aided by emotions, in the form of bodily states, that are elicited during the deliberation of future consequences and that mark different options for behavior as being advantageous or disadvantageous. This process involves an interplay between neural systems that elicit emotional/bodily states and neural systems that map these emotional/bodily states.

Although it is unclear whether the studies generalize to all processing, there is evidence that volitional movements are initiated, not by the conscious decision making self, but by the subconscious. See the Neuroscience of free will
Neuroscience of free will
Neuroscience of free will refers to recent neuroscientific investigations shedding light on the question of free will, which is a philosophical and scientific question as to whether, and in what sense, rational agents exercise control over their actions or decisions. As it has become possible to...

.