This chapter concerns the proper role of values and the formation of values in decision-making processes. Such values, as used in this chapter, refer to preferences for states or things. We suggest that values should play a more central role in formalizing decision-making processes than is currently the case. By using value-focused thinking, a style of thinking that concentrates more and earlier on values, it may be reasonable to expect more appealing decision problems than those that currently face us. In other words, value-focused thinking should lead to better alternatives than those generated by existing “conventional” procedures.
There are four topics in this chapter. The first concerns identification of the proper role for values in the decision-making environment. The next discusses structuring and quantifying values to state unambiguously what the decision maker, decision makers or individuals concerned about the problem wish to achieve. The third indicates some approaches to facilitate the creation of alternatives based on stated values. The fourth suggests that the study of values has sufficient breadth and depth as well as sufficient potential rewards for researchers and students to be a legitimate discipline for serious study.
IDENTIFYING DECISION OPPORTUNITIES
Much of the focus of decision making is on the choice among alternatives. Indeed, it is common to characterize a decision problem by the alternatives available. Often it seems as if the alternatives present themselves with little background investigation and the decision problem begins when at least two alternatives have appeared.