OODA Alpha, Part IV: Decision

Decision occurs when individuals “decide among action alternatives that are generated in the Orientation phase” (Osinga, 2007, 232) corresponds to thinking, the purposeful tasks of argumentation, decision making, judgment, planning, and problem solving (Moshman, 1995a). This portion of the OODA loop is familiar from many of the more noble theories in educational psychology. It also is important for understanding rationalization, which impacts its most important role: long-term change of orientation.

Rationality is often seem as falling under decision. Decision is necessary but not sufficient for rationality, thinking about thinking (Schraw & Moshman, 1995; Moshman 2005) or having good reasons for one’s actions (Moshman 1994). It is also critical for the development of epistemic cognition (Southerland, Sinatra, & Matthews, 2001; Moshman, 2007a), identity (Marcia, 1966; Erickson, 1968), morality, (Arnold, 2000; Kohlberg, 1981, 1984; Piaget, 1932/1965) and rational moral identity (Moshman, 1995b, 2004, 2005). The development of rationality, and thus better decision making ability more broadly, has even been argued as the proper focus of education (Moshman, 1990b, 2005; Stanovich, 2001) .


Post-hoc rationalizations also are driven by System 2 processes. Decision making is the normally invoked explanation for decisions (Maier, 1931; Wegner, 2002), even when such contradicts an individuals observations (Thompson, et al., 2004). For example, individuals claim activities they completed successfully are more worthwhile than tasks they do not so complete (Tesser & Paulhaus, 1983). This is especially true of people who show self-serving behavior generally (Tesser 2000, 2001; von Hippel, Lakin, & Shakarchi, 2005). However, any desire to undo or dampen this must be moderated by findings that self-serving processing correlates with higher performance (Nasco & Marsh, 1999).


OODA Alpha, a tdaxp series
1. Abstract
2. Dual Processing Systems
3. The OODA Loop
4. Decision
5. Orientation
6. A Theory of Mind
7. Reorientation
8. Disorientation
9. Education
10. Instruction
11. Student Interaction
12. Creativity
13. Conclusion
14. Bibliography

2 thoughts on “OODA Alpha, Part IV: Decision”

  1. Dan:

    I read your most recent installment of the paper draft. In it you state:

    Decision occurs when individuals 'decide among action alternatives that are generated in the Orientation phase' (Osinga, 2007, 232) [….]

    When consciously making a choice between alternatives, does cognitive load theory suggest where these alternatives are held (working v. short term memory)?

    This would have seem to have implications for the extend to which good decisions can be made (and therefore be rational).

  2. An excellent question!

    Short answer: yes.

    Long answer:

    I don't know if the cognitive load theorists have addressed the question directly, but I will try. I will use the Watson Selection Task [1] as an example

    [1] http://www.tdaxp.com/archive/2006/10/04/logical-thinking-v-cheater-detection.html

    Human working memory is limited to remembering something between 5 and 9 “chunks” of information at a time. The size of a chunk is determined by long-term memory. So for someone who has never played chess before, the location of a single pawn might take up one chunk. But a chess expert might look at the board, recognize the entire baord as being a “Four Knights Game” and thus hold all locations as one chunk.

    I assume that, in accordance with “hot cognition” theory, chunks also include an emotional charge. So in the classic Watson Selection Task, for example, people see four options

    16,61,P,E

    all emotionally neutral, and thus have no clue from orientation how to proceed. They need to work it out logically, and not surprisingly, tend to do terrible.

    But in the social Watson selection task, they see

    16 years old, 61 years old, drinking pop, drinking beer

    Two of these chunks come with emotional charges — the instinctive reaction to a “cheater” — so the work of decision is much easier.

    Thus, my guess is that orientation-driven clues exist within the chunks of working memory, and that it is very difficult to generate answers one does not already know [2].

    [1] http://www.tdaxp.com/archive/2006/10/04/logical-thinking-v-cheater-detection.html
    [2] http://www.tdaxp.com/archive/2007/10/16/duncker-s-radiation-problem.html

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *