Reinhard Selten, German economist and Nobel Prize winner, at one point presented 3 levels of decision making. They are routine level, imagination level and reasoning level.
In this article, I am going to explain the three levels. To make them clearer, I am going to use one decision, but different points of time and people from recent Person of Interest episode title ‘Zero Day’ (season 2 episode 21). The decision in question is going to be: “For Harold, to meet Root or not to meet Root?”.
The first level of decision making is routine level. This level is defined by our habits and our routine. It is the first answer that comes to mind.
Some examples of everyday life would be, what path to take to the work/school. Do we check mail? Do we go to work?
In the episode, the person exercising this level is Harold. When Root called him for the first time, he refused to meet with her. He didn’t even think it through. Just his first reaction.
The second level of decision making is imagination level. On this level, we imagine some of the possible consequences and we make decision based on that. It is decision making , guided by feeling and intuition.
Some examples from everyday life would be what to eat. What to buy in the story? What is that spider going to do to me? Do I to to that meeting?
In the episode, the person on this level is John. When they talk about Root’s call, he said, to not answer it, if it is not him. That he is not going to let Root take him again. Here, John is imagining one of the possibilities and he is making the decision based on whatever he wants it to came true or not. In his case, he doesn’t.
The third level is reasoning level. On this level, the person making the decision takes into the account all the possibilities and all the consequences. Using the preference theory and probability, the person decide on for him best course of action. It does not mean, everybody will came to the same decision, since people value different things.
An example from everyday life would be choosing the university to attend.
In the episode, we have Harold’s decision again. I had written a simplified model before, about how Harold made his decision to meet Root. He takes into the account the possibilities, the consequences of them and decides to play safe.