People can use different heuristics to make decisions. Gigerenzer and his colleagues have found that in some cases heuristics can save time and get better results than more complex algorithmic decision-making processes1. But in some areas your heuristics can lead to worse decisions. How can we choose, what approach should we use?
Known situations are more likely to have good working heuristics. So if you need to decide on something other people are deciding every day you have good chances to find a useful heuristic. You can also look for similar situations if you can’t find information about your problem. You can expand your search until you find a heuristic, but it may not work for your problem. It means that brand new problems may require more complex decision analysis than simple heuristics.
Another thing to consider is the impact of your problem. In your problem have little impact on your life, less than optimal choice can hardly create any lasting problems. But some other decisions can change your life drastically. Even if you have a heuristic to use you probably need to use some algorithms to make this decision. And to do so you need to gather information and probably read some decision-making handbooks.
Other decisions may look simple and with little or no consequences, but if the situation repeats itself every day then people may use the first case as an example and just repeat their first decision. So people need to be careful if they need to decide in a situation which would repeat itself. This decision may have a much bigger impact than they initially think. So I recommend checking, if your case can repeat itself, then before making a choice in this case consider what you are going to do. Will you decide again each time and consider the next situation as a new one? Or will you use your first decision as a template in any form? If you are going to use the first decision as a template, the decision becomes more crucial now and should be treated accordingly.
You can also check 2 for other approaches to decision-making.
1. ^ : Simple heuristics that make us smart, G Gigerenzer, PM Todd – 1999.
2. ^ : Blackwell handbook of judgment and decision making, DJ Koehler, N Harvey – 2008.