How to make big decisions more easily

Most of us shy away from life’s hardest decisions. But there are ways to help us

Psychology professor Laurence Alison is an expert in how to make decisions, but in the early days of his career, it was all theoretical. Then one day he took a call from “someone very senior”, who described a worrying trend: police chiefs were showing themselves unable, in critical situations, to make crucial choices. “He asked, ‘Is there anything you can do to help?’”

There was. Alison – a straight-talking, no-nonsense person – started to translate what he knew from textbooks and turn it into practical advice. “Academic work on decision-making had concentrated on studying how they’re made in theoretical settings,” he says. “But I realised we needed to move it to real-time, lives-on-the-line situations: tsunamis, earthquakes, floods, where chances were, someone was being presented with a situation where almost every choice looked dire. I knew I had something to offer that would make a difference.”

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