Fact or Fiction? Deciding what’s true.
Everyday we make decisions. But how do we know if we’re making the right decision? When it comes to important decisions how do we decide if what we’re basing our decisions on, is factual or opinion? We decide what we’ll wear in the morning based off our own opinion of what we like, look good in, and deem appropriate. We decide if we’ll shower in the morning, before bed or not at all. We decide if we will eat breakfast or not. We decide what to eat. We decide which team to cheer for in the Superbowl. We decide if a shirt is worth buying. We don’t think about the decisions we make everyday. But we certainly should think about what goes into the decisions we make everyday.
What goes into decision making? What exactly is it we’re doing? According to a quick peek at wikipedia decision-making is described this way; “decision-making is regarded as the cognitive process resulting in the selection of a belief or a course of action among several alternative possibilities. Every decision-making process produces a final choice; it may or may not prompt action. Decision-making is the process of identifying and choosing alternatives based on the values and preferences of the decision- Maker.”
In plain english. We make decisions based off the choices that are available to us and our beliefs about those available choices and their outcomes. Once we make a choice we may or may not act on it.
Ultimately our decisions are based on our opinions about our available options. Opinion is defined by Google as views or judgements formed about something, not necessarily based on fact or knowledge. Basically our opinions are judgements we make which prompt our decisions. So let me ask this. If “judgement” is defined (by Google) as the ability to make considered decisions or come to sensible conclusions, than how are those conclusions sensible if they are based on opinions that are “not necessarily based on facts”?
I’ve been thinking about this quite a bit. With the level of turmoil in the world today are we basing our stances on facts or on opinions? Even when it is based on facts are we taking into consideration that the facts might only be what’s available to us but there may be more facts we’re unaware of. For instance if I asked, “do you want the blue one, or the white one?” You might ask, the blue or white what? Are we talking cars? What if I said no, I’m talking about bread. Do you want the white one or the blue one now? What if I said 75% of participants liked the blue one better? Would it change your mind about the study if you found out there were only 4 participants? And what if you found out those 4 participants were dogs and were given only the blue option, while the white option was locked in a box they couldn’t open? Often times I’ll see statistics that show a small time line of events which only in that limited time frame supports the theory of the writer/reporter. However, when those same statistics are broken down or looked at over longer periods, often times they are skewed. There’s a lot of reporting of news statistics and stories but did you know that not everyone reporting is an unbiased journalist? When you see a news panel they are often made up of not only journalists, broadcasters, news analysts, but also opinion writers. That’s a lot of reporting but not necessarily on facts.
We can’t always avoid making decisions. But we do need to be discerning in our decision making. It’s important that we not only hear with an open mind the opinions of others but that we take the time to gain knowledge about the truth of the matter. Don’t just take someones word for something. Find out for yourself if it’s true. Don’t make a quick judgement based on someone else’s opinion. Research, ask experts, read evidence based journals and studies. Be wary of statistical analysis that can’t explain to you how they took a sample or what the sample demographics, size, or time period was.
A while back I talked about a movie I watched that I thought was the worst movie ever. However, the movie itself won accolades and awards. When I reviewed the criteria for judging a movie I realized based on true theatrical standards the movie had earned it’s awards. However it didn’t change my opinion, I still did not like the movie. But, I did understand that it was not in fact the worst movie ever and I gained some solid standards and guidelines for judging future movies.