There are decisions and choices that we make which we may not give a second thought. Then there are decisions that keep us awake at night, our mind mulling over the countless implications of the single choice. It is this notion of decision-making and a twitter conversation (pictured below) with the subject lecturer, Kate Bowles, about my own indecisiveness that has brought me the idea for my research task for BCM210: What influences the decision-making process of university students?
Starting university means embarking on a new phase in one’s life. Moving from a structured life in high school to a life filled with responsibility and spontaneity, it’s a lot to take on. Getting older means having complete control of the decisions that affect one’s life, whether they be significant or trivial. After being dependant on parents or school teachers to make choices, this newfound freedom may be daunting. Janis and Mann’s Conflict Model of Decision Making (1977) deemed this feeling as “vigilant information processing” in which the individual thinks about potential risks, assures themselves of the potential successes and postulates ideas for potential setbacks in the outcome. That being said, I want to find out what factors students consider or are influenced by when making decisions or, alternatively, to put them off?
To get a better understanding of what I will be focusing on in my research about the decision-making process of students, I conducted some preliminary readings for context. One particular reading explored the three main factors that may influence an individual’s ability to make a decision:
- Decision features – the way in which the options are demonstrated, ordering of choices and the necessity of justification of the decision
- Situational factors – characteristics of the situation in which the decision is faced (time and pressure), and;
- Individual differences – characteristics of the decision maker themselves (cognitive ability, decision style, personality, self-esteem, confidence)
It is these 3 factors that will be the prime focus of my research. They will be the basis to finding what decisions are made and why based on the types of decisions, situations and the personality of the students themselves.
This decision-making model from Dartmouth (left) will also be used in order to see if university students do in fact consider all the steps in the process or instead make decisions on impulse. I want to uncover why students may or may not consider and research all their options when making decisions, and the resulting consequences.
The main methods that will be used to collect data will be surveys (most likely to be online in order to reach a greater audience and in faster time) and focus groups. The surveys will ask participants a series of questions about whether they have experienced indecisiveness in a variety of scenarios as well as ranking instances that will most likely influence their ability to make an effective decision. This initial part of data collection will be quantitative. The second part will be on focus groups that will delve into the specifics of a student’s decision making process and collect data on the how and why students make decisions and the influences. Possible scenarios explored could be: moving out, subject/degree selection, joining clubs/teams, assignments and procrastination, peer pressure, etc. This data will be qualitative.
So, why am I doing this?
The reason I am interested in this research task is because I cannot find existing research findings about decision-making that is specifically about university students and young adults. Existing research tends to lack specificity as it doesn’t focus on a particular age group or specific type of individuals that are faced with similar decisions. So, with this research I am hoping to make clear what factors influence the decision making process of students and whether the personality of the individual plays a part.
I look forward to delving into this research task and seeing what makes students tick.