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Pabitra Mukhopadhyay


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What leads us to decide?

We need to take decisions in life almost every day. In work or outside of it, life takes us on crossroads where decisions are necessary, without which we cannot move on. It is in these situations we take decisions and we believe that the decisions are independently taken, weighing pros and cons and utilizing our best judgments.

That may not be the case. Our decisions may not be as individualistic as we normally think. Our judgments may not be the best under the circumstances. We are often influenced by authority that comes from an expert or an institution or even a belief system but all of which, either solely or in combination are relied on as of authority. Yale University Psychologist Stanley Milgram, in 1963 published his research paper which measured the willingness of study participants to obey an authority figure who instructed them to perform acts that conflicted with their personal conscience. They went on to impart lethal doses of electricity (as they believed to do) to some other participants just because they were deciding under authority. There are interesting videos available in Youtube which you can check.

We can project this authority beyond science. Religion is one. Market in another. Media is yet another. From small to profound we rely on authority almost obsessively for making decisions and yet think that our decisions are free and independent. If we need a reference for making decision, we should be seeking help from authenticity and not authority and they are different. Authority is beyond question, it regulates where as authenticity is free to be tested and it creates trust.

What leads us to decide – authority or authenticity?


Closing Statement from Pabitra Mukhopadhyay

It seems that we take help of both authority and authenticity to decide things. It may not even be an either/or choice as the question seeks to see decision making as. At times we can find authority and authenticity merging and at other times, at the very fringes of human choice the decision making may be so spontaneous that our sub-conscious plays a vital role. Moreover, our decision making process works over a range of our faculty, our brain conserves resources/neuronic energy while decision making.

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    Apr 6 2013: Hi Pabitra:>)
    I believe the best decisions are made when we honestly weigh ALL information with an open heart and mind. Our decisions can be "individualistic" when we "know" ourself, and are willing to consider ALL relevant information.

    If, as you say...."Our judgments may not be the best under the circumstances", we may not be adequately considering ALL relevant information.

    You say..."We are often influenced by authority...". That, in my perception, is part of the information we can evaluate. Consider the source and whether or not we trust the source.

    You write... "...research... measured the willingness of study participants to obey an authority figure who instructed them to perform acts that conflicted with their personal conscience. They went on to impart lethal doses of electricity (as they believed to do) to some other participants".

    If I was getting zapped with lethal doses of electricity, I may change what I'm saying or doing too. That does not seem like very good "research" to me.

    I do NOT rely on anyone else to make decisions for me, NO MATTER what they say. I take full responsibility for the decisions I make. Again...lethal doses of electricity may change my mind about that!

    When I have gathered and evaluated ALL relevant information, and am clear with my "self", I feel good about the decisions I make:>)
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      Apr 6 2013: Hi Colleen :)
      Wish I could have been as confident and capable as you. Up till now, I cannot remember to have taken a decision where I considered ALL relevant information. I Do rely on some people on what they say, I could not, yet, successfully be independent for EVERY decision I take. I guess my question is for people like me and what they will rely on, authority or authenticity.
      In your country the legal system is based on jurors. If I am not wrong a jury is carefully selected from among the society of common people, not experts. I think that implies reliance on authenticity rather than authority.
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        Apr 6 2013: OH sorry Pabitra, I could have said ALL relevant AVAILABLE information. We may never have ALL information, and we can certainly explore to any level we choose to have as much information as possible.....yes?

        I consider information provided by other people.....that is where I get some information, so I am not totally independent in that respect. As I said....I do not rely on others to make decisions for me, and I DO rely on information provided by others.

        To me, authority is part of the information to be considered. Yes, in the U.S., a jury is selected from among the society of common people. I have served as a juror, and in that position, I considered the authority (law), as well as ALL information presented by all parties. I would say that the decision, is both authority AND authenticity ("worthy of acceptance or belief as conforming to fact or reality" (dictionary)). I think many decisions may be based on authenticity AND authority. Why do you need to seperate those concepts?
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        Apr 7 2013: Preservation of the "self" and protection of the "ego" are powerful humin priorities for survival AND decision making. The next "A" to consider is "altruism" (Unselfish concern for the welfare of others; selflessness). A balance between a respect for just authority, thriving authenticity and healthy altruism could be the bridges we need to help decide a thing or two :o) I prioritize my decisions by these 4 criteria: impact, purpose, time, economics.
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          Apr 12 2013: More good information Renee!

          Preservation, protection, survival, altruism, respect for authority, thriving authenticity, prioritize by criteria, impact, purpose, time, economics.......how about preference?

          AND BALANCE with the whole process...... YES!

          BTW...looks like you're new to TED.........WELCOME!

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