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Formulating Intent

 

Explanations > The SIFT Model > Formulating Intent

  Short cut decisionsCreating alternatives | Select the best course of actions

 

Once we have created meaning to what is going on around us, we can then decide what to do about it. Rather than jumping immediately into action, we initially formulate our intent, deciding what we want to achieve. Most of the time we use short-cut methods to simplify and speed this stage. If, however, the meaning is significant and our interest levels are high enough, then we will slow down and think more carefully about this.

 

 

Short-cut decisions

We make a constant stream of decisions as we interact with the outer world and we do not have time to think long and hard about every decision. We thus need to make quick decisions about many of our actions, especially those we make when external events such as when we are driving down the road, that do not allow us to ponder for long on the best course of action. Short-cuts include:

  • Reaction : unthinking primitive response.

  • Habit : unthinking pattern repetition.

  • Conditioning : programmed responses.

  • Heuristics : rules of thumb.

  • Scripts : prepared things to say and do. 

  • Intuition : help from the subconscious.

For more detail on these, go to the 'Short-cut decisions' page.

Creating alternatives

If we get past decision short-cutting, then we start the conscious decision-making process by coming up with a number of possible alternative courses of action which may be taken in response to an external event or as an attempt to achieve an internal goal.

We typically create alternatives by reaching into our memories and mental models to determine what has worked previously in similar circumstances. If we try something and it does not work, the most common response is to try it again, and then again and again until we realize that it is not going to work this time. Only after we are convinced that existing alternatives are inadequate do we typically start thinking creatively.

People can become so convinced that a strategy will be effective or be so blind to alternatives that they repeat unsuccessful actions, sometimes for years. Parents sometimes spend the entire time that their children are in their teenage years telling their teenagers what to do and what not to do, seemingly blind to the fact that their children are no longer compliant to commands (and in fact commands now causes serious revolution).

Select the best course of action

After the divergent activity of identifying alternatives, the next step is to choose the best one. This is typically done by generating selection criteria (which themselves need to be created and prioritized), and using these to help complete the decision.

If none of the alternatives pass the criteria, then the process loops back to creating more alternatives. There may also be an iterative process of looping back to refine an alternative that is promising, but not quite good enough yet.

 

For more detail on this, go to the 'Selecting the best course of action' page.

 

See also

Elaboration Likelihood Model, Decision-making theories, Decisional Balance

 

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