I am fascinated with decision making and why people make certain decisions. There are loads of great papers out there, some of which I actually understand!
What has really caught my attention is the effect of time constraints on decision making.
Time Constraints in GamesWe see this a lot in games, sometimes obvious other times, not so obvious. It is also used to varying degrees. For example. The Walking Dead uses this to great effect during certain conversations. The game asks you to make a decision then given a few choices. Whilst you decide there is a progress meter counting down that will force neutral and probably unwanted response if you don’t choose. Within the context of the game, this forces you to often go with gut instinct over long considered decisions. This gives the feeling of drama and in some cases real dread, with all choices often seeming negative – leaving you to choose which is least bad. In Mario, there is always a timer ticking away at the top of the screen. For the most part, this does not really mean much as it has ample time to complete a map – or so it seems. Yet, after deciding to collect everything on a level, you often find time running out and suddenly it all feels more desperate as you sprint to the finish line!These are obvious examples of time pressure on decision making, you can see a timer and know it will run out at a certain point. Games offer many other types of time constraints, from how you react to people shootin at you, to how you are going to get from one side of a map to the other as you are being chased. These kinds of pressures force fast thinking, reflex action and definitely don’t encourage considered or creative solutions. But, these kinds of moments often feel more “real” and emotional, they have more meaning in that split second. Some people use this to get “gut reaction” decisions in the context of workshops and the like. A popular “game” is 3-12-3 or variations of it. A problem is set and groups of people are set the challenge of solving it. There are then three phases of the brainstorming process, all tightly timed. The first lasts 3 minutes and is used to come up with some ideas. Keeping the initial time tight forces participants to not over think the problem. Next, they have 12 minutes to develop a more concrete idea from the ones pooled in the first phase. Finally, the groups have 3 minutes to present their idea to the other groups. Rules differ, with individuals and pairs and groups doing various things, but the key principle is always the same. The initial idea generation phase has a short time limit. But why would this produce better ideas?
Decision Field Theory – How We Decide
As I say, there is a lot of research on how we make decisions. The most predominant that I found was a piece called Decision Field Theory published by Jerome R. Busemeyer and James T. Townsend in 1993 . In this paper, they discuss how people make decisions, based on available information and time etc. Basically, given a set of choices, your mind filters through all of the information available. Over time the probability of each choice “winning” changes until either time runs out or there is only one choice left in mind. The key thing for me considering time pressure on decision making is that changing the amount of time given for a decision to be made, can dramatically change the outcome.