TED Conversations

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 26 2013: I believe that it has a lot to do with where we feel we fit in the chain of command. Those who feel low in the chain of command are going to rely on authority because they want to fit in. Those who feel high in the chain of command are going to rely on authenticity because they want to make decisions that are based on fact. It reverts back to followers and leaders. Leaders take command. Followers follow command. And everywhere in between, it will be a mix according to one's self image of where they fit into the community.
    Education and intellect are also important factors, for without them, one is gullible to false information. So the degree of one's education and intellect will play a factor into whether you are capable of evaluating authenticity. Those who are not are guided by peer pressure rather than one's own will.
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      Apr 26 2013: Thank you Roy. I can sense that you are an insightful person. I think you grasped the contexts of authority and authenticity the way i tried to. I cannot cease to be amazed by the TED audience. :)

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