What Do People Really Want? Goals and Context in Decision Making

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Book Chapter

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goals, decision making, context, economic and decision theory, decision makers, alternative goals, motivation

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)



In standard economic and decision theory, it has been assumed that all decision makers have the same goal: to maximize expected utility. This chapter presents evidence of alternative goals of decision makers and alternative frameworks for understanding how these goals motivate decision making. Decisions that are likely to influence an individual's policies are also likely to be driven by specific goals. The results of an exploratory study show that people believe their decisions are motivated by approximately eight distinct factors that cut across gender, age, and time horizon. These include relationship, financial, personal satisfaction, career, education, leisure, health, and instrumental goals. These goals are further elaborated with respect to motives identified as essential within evolutionary and motivational theories. The importance of incorporating these goals into theories of decision making is discussed. In addition, the value of temporal and situational contexts in decision making is explored, as well as the need to address issues such as goal conflict, goal compatibility, and priorities.

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Citation / Publisher Attribution

What Do People Really Want? Goals and Context in Decision Making, in S. Schneider & J. Shanteau (Eds.), Emerging Perspectives on Judgment and Decision Research, Cambridge University Press, p. 394-428