Hick's law and decision-making

Hick's law and decision-making

Decision-making is a complex process in which experience, emotions and will intervene. For this reason, science studies for years the mechanisms that come into play when we make a decision. Hick's Law explains this process as a function of time.

Hick's Law is a principle discovered by William Edmund Hick and Ray Hyman. It measures the time that a person takes to make a decision. As the number of alternatives increases and the complexity and discrepancies increase in these, the time needed to make a decision will obviously increase. This duration follows a logarithmic scheme.

Literally, Hick's Law presents this: "The time a person spends making a decision is proportional to "entropy decision" that is, the quantity and complexity of the alternatives that existThe entropy of decision refers to the difficulties introduced by the possible options.

"I am not the product of my circumstances, I am the product of my decisions".
-Steven Covey-
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The appearance of Hick's law and its applications

The antecedents of Hick's law made their appearance at the end of 19th century. J.Merkel had discovered that when stimulation belongs to a larger group of stimulations, people take longer to respond.

Hick and Hyman did a series of experiments. They managed to find that it is possible to calculate the time taken by each person to make a decision depending on the number of alternatives it faces. All this has been expressed by a mathematical formula.

Surprisingly, the main application of this formula is associated with video games. The creators of these reduce the time needed to make decisions in a particular game to create tension. On the contrary, they can also lengthen the time available to release this voltage.

Time and accuracy

Some people, while the more time they devote to decision-making, the higher the probability of choosing the best option. This is not the case. Sometimes we make well-considered decisions and they are incorrect. The opposite also occurs.

Hick's law simply allows you to calculate the time to reach a decision through a universal mathematical formula. It is therefore applicable to all human beings. However,For the decision to be correct, four factors come into play:

  • experience: Experience is an empirical knowledge. In general, it has a weight greater than the theoretical knowledge it implies but it includes certain aspects in its application. Experience is perhaps the most important factor in making a good decision.
  • Good judgment : In good judgment, we evoke the mixture between reasoning ability and intellectual maturity. It refers to people who know how to weigh the pros and cons of situations and make a realistic comparison of them.
  • Creativity: Creativity makes it possible to use the knowledge of the past to associate them with concrete situations in order to create a new approach. A creative decision is a decision that innovates in a certain way.
  • Quantitative abilities They are related to the ability to process the quantitative information involved in the situation in which a decision has to be made. In other words, it is the incorporation of statistical evidence.

Practical aspects of Hick's Law

Hick's law brings us above all a value criterion for making decisions. As he announces, the greater the number of options, the more time we will have to decide. Thus, a smart strategy would consist of minimize the number of alternatives that need to be considered.

A good way to do this is to list all available options. Then, they are ordered according to the risk they imply or the possible difficulty they could generate. Finally, we could specify the greatest benefit they could provide us. This is a basic risk analysis that is very helpful in unlocking a situation of doubt.

Finally, you just have to choose the option that has the most balance between risks and benefits. In this way, we avoid falling into a vicious circle in which every decision seems possible or viable. It is a fast and efficient way to approach decision making associated with a certain level of complexity.

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