Five Factors that Affect Our Decisions

We make hundreds of decisions each day – from what to eat for breakfast and what route to take to work to which car to buy. Have you ever wondered how that decision-making process happens and why we make some of the choices we make? In the root of our decisions, there are five factors we rely constantly on to help us make the right choice – emotional states, beliefs, values, incentive, and past experiences.

Emotional states

How we feel on the inside affects most of our daily decisions. For example, if fear is the dominant emotion in a certain situation, we are more likely to opt out of the choice we are presented with. When it comes to decisions about us, we will choose what we think will make us the happiest, most relaxed, or secured, and our decisions about other people are usually guided by our empathy. If we are good at putting ourselves in another person’s shoes, we will probably make a decision that is going to be good for them.


Beliefs are essentially assumptions that we feel certain about. If you buy a new apartment, that purchase itself won’t make you happy, but, your belief that this apartment will bring happiness to you, certainly will. The goals that we are trying to reach or things we look forward to are usually meaningless without our beliefs about them. That is why we are unconsciously guided by our beliefs whenever we need to make any decision – from what sandwich to buy to deciding to work instead of procrastinating.


Your highly personal principles or standards are a major motivating force. They can be aspects of life that are the most important to us such as love, family, health or success. For example, if two people are to decide whether they want to travel around the world in a year or stay at their current office job, they might make two completely different decisions. One person might value excitement and danger, and would take this opportunity with both hands; however, this won’t sound too good to a person who values security and stability.


Our brains have the risk vs. reward center which determine whether the reward is worth the risk we need to take. We are influenced by this all the time without even knowing it. We go to work in order to receive a paycheck, we work harder in order to receive a bonus or a promotion, and we post images on Facebook and Instagram in order to receive likes from other people. A negative incentive is just as equal determiner – we will slow down when we drive or return library books on time in order not to get a fine.

Past Experiences

Past experiences or references we have are just as important part of making decisions. This means that everything we have ever seen, heard, done, touched, tasted or even smelled could have an effect on our decisions in the future. For example, if you know that you do not like the taste of strawberries from a previous experience, that probably won’t be the flavor of your choice when you go to buy ice cream.