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In everyday life we have to make choices are we making informed choices or random ones.

I propose that in most circumstances in order to make a choice we have to way up our options then we make a decision and the outcome of that decision is either what we expected or it is not.

Suppose you woke up in the morning and felt hungry however your fridge and cupboards were empty, Now you have the choice to remain hungry or to go to the shops to buy some food. Let's say there are two shops in your world and the prices are greater in one shop than they are in the other.

You have £10.00 for example and are very hungry do you choose to go to the cheaper store where prices are lower or do you go to shop were prices are greater. Most people would choose to go to the cheaper store howver some may go the store were prices are greater.

Is most peoples choice the result of an informed one, or is it a random choice and if you choose to go to the store where prices are greater is that choice an informed one or a random one?

And are you free to make either decision?

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    How can anyone presume to know whether "most people" choose randomly, or base their decisions on available information? Can't you only presume to know these things about yourself? And how can you ever know anything for certain? Nov 6, 2023 at 19:15
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    @MichaelHall OK remove the presumption, what would you do in that situation which choice do you think you would make and is that choice a random one or an informed one?
    – 8Mad0Manc8
    Nov 6, 2023 at 19:21
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    @MichaelHall It was just a question I'm not pinning my hopes on winning a noble prize with it :-) I think most people would do the same as you it was slack of me to include the presumption in the question I'm not perfect!!
    – 8Mad0Manc8
    Nov 6, 2023 at 19:36
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    @MichaelHall Just to add I think I made an informed choice to write this question based upon a quick look on the site and the information contained within it I had not seen a similar question so I posted it the information that enabled me to 'choose' may have been incomplete.
    – 8Mad0Manc8
    Nov 6, 2023 at 20:01
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    @MichaelHall Yeah some of the concepts can be deep however figuratively speaking I pick an choose when I'm on this site and avoid the minefields.
    – 8Mad0Manc8
    Nov 6, 2023 at 22:55

4 Answers 4

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People can make different types of choice in different circumstances. I make what seem to me to be random choices every morning when I pick a pair of socks to wear- I don't have any conscious preference, so I take any pair from the shelf, often when there is insufficient light to see which I am picking. By contrast, I spent many minutes this morning researching on the internet before ordering some corrugated roof sheets- I considered that to be a reasonably informed decision. Complicated decisions with high-stakes outcomes might be taken after months of careful assessment of the pros and cons of different options. It also seems possible that some decisions you consider to be random, in the sense that you do not consciously assess them, might be subconsciously informed decisions. For example, you might instinctively favour one route to a particular destination because you subconsciously have memories of delays when taking other routes.

A seemingly random decision might be one you would take if I asked you to pick a card from a pack without thinking, as part of a magic trick, although there could be all kinds of unconscious biases at work that make your selection anything but random. Indeed, some studies have suggested that humans are not a good generators of random strings, which you might take as an indication that even decisions we think of as being random might never be.

Finally, if all your decisions were random, presumably your behaviour would be too. A normal person does not behave randomly, so you might be justified in preferring to believe that their patterns of decision making are not entirely random either.

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  • The last one is awesome! Nov 6, 2023 at 22:11
  • Marco I read your profile on stack exchange and read your an author so i gogled you and your image on the web is a striking resemblesence of a British comedian the late great Ken Dodd.....
    – 8Mad0Manc8
    Nov 6, 2023 at 23:31
  • @8Mad0Manc8 ha! Yes, that was created by another author for a guest blog post and looks amazing. It did blend a picture of me with Ken Dodd. Marco is meant to be a geeky, gangly teenager from the Bronx with a ginger afro, a voice a bit like kermit the frog and a tendency to write crazy nonsense, so I'm not like him at all (apart from the tendency to write nonsense!). Nov 7, 2023 at 6:56
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Choices are never random. Choice (=deliberate selection) is the very opposite of chance (=random selection). Even when we flip a coin to decide what to do, that is still a choice. We choose to flip the coin and we choose what heads or tails mean to us.

But there are levels of informedness when making choices. Sometimes we have sufficient knowledge to know for certain what we should do. Sometimes we have incomplete knowledge, we have to guess by intuition. Even guesswork can vary from completely random to extremely educated guess.

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I'm reminded of Buridan's Ass, based on an idea of Aristotle. Having observed the behaviour of real donkeys, they do not appear to spend much time on decision making! Like my dog, they eat voraciously but have definite preferences. In humans, hunger makes food preference less important. A really hungry animal will eat whatever becomes available. So choices are random unless circumstances allows for time spent on decision making. In your example, a really hungry person would go to the nearest store. Price would be irrelevant unless the person had only a very limited amount of money. Then they would seek out the cheapest store. People make random choices when there is no discernible difference. If there is jeopardy, they make informed choices. Btw, informed choice assumes free will and non-illusory consciousness.

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    Your question is good. The short answer is that we are free to choose. I live in a deprived area in Scotland where you can buy breakfast in a cafe for less than a fiver. Bread and cheese out of the corner shop for less. If I am really hungry, I do not pick and choose, Practically and philosophically, people make informed preferences based on price and taste. We also make random choices when it does not matter or there is urgency. This is not surprising. It is surprising that some deny free will and the reality of consciousness.
    – Meanach
    Nov 6, 2023 at 20:40
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    Iam poor in the south of England £10.00 doesn't get you much, living in a poor area I guess that the public there have a great concern how the politicians exert their freewill within those communities. Thanks for clearing up the inconsistencies in my question through your comments :-)
    – 8Mad0Manc8
    Nov 6, 2023 at 21:18
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    "It is surprising that some deny free will and the reality of consciousness." I have stopped being surprised since coming here. Honestly, I don't know how some philosophers can even make it through the day! Nov 6, 2023 at 21:32
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    @MichaelHall Have you ever seen the monty pythons sketch about the football game between the German and Greek philosophers it'll be on YouTube if you haven't its very funny.
    – 8Mad0Manc8
    Nov 6, 2023 at 22:00
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    Yes, one of my favorites! Nov 6, 2023 at 22:13
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Human behavior is for the most part subconscious or unconscious, only few behaviors are done using conscious planning. When reaching for a glass of water, this can be done with the left or the right hand, it can be done using a two finger punch or using all fingers, the glass could be grasped near the rim or near the base, etc. All these can be regarded as choices, and typically humans won't think ahead before acting in such a situation, yet act.

This does not mean the behavior is random or uninformed, the subconscious and the unconscious also have access to information and some limited planning, but conscious behavior likely first spends more effort to model longer term expectations before choosing.

When choosing consciously, humans can self-observe their own behavior, and will sometimes then attribute their choice to reasons after behaving, judging their own behavior as "rational" and "informed". However, Split-Brain experiments show that this is subject to various illusions (or delusions), and that human brains will make up false reasons for their own behaviors. Thus it could be shown that sometimes, even though we believe we know why we made a choice, we remain unaware of the actual mental cause.

Apart from such illusions, a lot of conscious decision making is informed, as evidenced by the high achievement rate un productive work behavior. If an employee were asked to complete a business process, and their behavior were random, the process would usually fail.

Perfectly informed decision making is deterministic, computers are better at making perfect choices given perfect data than humans (but currently often worse when given imperfect data).

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