Chapter 3: Values:  What do I want?



Creative problem structuring:  Values


* Best place to start thinking about a decision problem


1.  “Problem structuring is the key to a successful analysis.”

            a.  What does that mean?

2.  “Two people were born to the same parents on the same day of the year; but are not twins. How can that be?”

            a.  Problem structuring—a third sibling thus they are triplets.

b.  What does this have to do with decision-making, well you can’t choose an alternative that isn’t there.

3.   One important aspect of decision structuring is identifying relevant values and organizing them logically.

            a.  best to think about values before alternatives

            b.  they are general and open you mind up to a wider range of alternatives

            c.  this is what we call a value focused search

d.  value exploration can help you solve problems by not putting you in the box (mousetrap versus focusing on a better way to get rid of mice)

4.  Values

            a.  ‘A positive value are the attitudes we have about things we want.’

            b.  ‘Negative values are the attitudes we have about things we want to avoid.”

            c.  This could be looked at behaviorally as a tendency to approach or avoid.

d.  Generally best to state them in a positive way (as goals).  This can give you a sense of hope.




Value Checklists


Make an initial list of values that are appropriate to your decision, and set it aside. This is your foundation of what you are thinking about right now.


1.  List of values (a simplification of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs).  List important values associated with each of the three categories.  It doesn’t matter if you think they apply to your decision or not (you may need to force fit later on).


            Cognitive/Aesthetic values

            Social values

            Safety values

            Physiological values


2. Decision Values Checklist [ Important values commonly overlooked in decision making]



            Positive and Negative Consequences

            Present and Future Consequences

Tangible and intangible Consequences

            Community Values


A stakeholder is “anyone who’s affected by the decision.”  Usually those not immediately present are often overlooked.


Negative Consequences:  We often do not think about the possible negative outcomes of our decision.


Future Consequences:  We often neglect examining long-term consequences


Tangible Consequences:  Easy to think about, intangible consequences that we tend to over look.

            1.  One intangible consequence we often overlook is our own happiness.


Community Values:  Include, but not limited to, pride in being a member of a group for a variety of reasons.  If this is not considered, individuals run the risk of the “tragedy of the commons.”


            1.  Ethical decision-making.


            Beneficence: beneficial or harmful effects on the person’s health

            Autonomy: a person’s freedom to choose

            Justice: refers to fairness in distribution of benefits and costs through the                                population.


Analysis of Alternatives:  using already acknowledged alternatives


1.  Rank order the alternatives

            a.  Which one is the best?

            b.  Why do you like it? [these will be values]

            c.  Which one do you like the least?

            d.  Why don’t you like it [these will be negative values]


2.  Consider pros and cons of each alternative

            a.  What is the best feature? What is the worst feature?

            b.  Again these will be values


Analysis of Events


Think about worst case and best-case scenarios.  What do you like or not like about these outcomes?  These will be values.


Value Trees


1.  Vary your processing by ‘changing into visual mode’ by using a value tree.

2.  Create a hierarchy of values, in a tree like structure….a classification system.


Key things to remember

            1.  All paths must branch

            2.  Paths cannot converge—if so this may be an ends, not a value (ie. money).

3.  Clear ends (no value, but represent something else symbolically) can be demonstrated by using arrows…what is effecting the values.


Subgoal Analysis


  • Best to think about subgoals when the goal it too far off to be able to think about usefully.  (For example, what degree to get for what job in the future).


You should never loose sight of your overall goal though.  Often times we loose sight of the end, because we are focused on the means.


For example, if the purpose of a job is to have a steady income—that means a BS degree—and what degree do you get?  Well if you choose a degree based upon other goals (like what you like) and neglect the end goal…you may get a degree that isn’t worth that much in the market place.


  • If you want something because you want it, it’s a value.  If you don’t then it’s a means.
  • Subgoals help promote help, and thus help keep down defensive avoidance
  • So for example, it may be best to take time to find some course to take, rather than deciding on what you want to do for a career.


Do class activity


Criteria for a Well-Structured Value Set


  • Completeness
  • Relevance
  • Non-Redundancy
  • Testability-Measurability
  • Meaningfulness
  • Value Independence



Completeness:  All important values are included.  Make sure consequences to others, negative consequences, long-term consequences, and abstract consequences (how we think about others, how others think about us) are not overlooked.  Stimulus variation should help with this.


To test for completeness

  1. Pick the alternative you would intuitively rank highest
  2. Pick the alternative you would intuitively rank lowest
  3. Assume these alternatives are identical with respect to all the values you have identified so far, then…
  4. Ask yourself whether you would still have any preference or would be willing to toss a coin to decide.
  5. If one matters more than the other, you more than likely have missed a value.




No unimportant values are included (one that is about the same on all the alternatives).


  1. Number of values should be kept to a minimum (2-3 are enough, but 5-7 values no more…for completeness)
  2. More than 7, you should apply the relevance test.


  • How likely is it that information about additional values will change my mind about any decision based on the values already in my set?
  • Encourages you to remove them.
  • Example sunk costs….continuing to pay in on something you won’t get back.





Testibility “Is the requirement that the valued outcome be describable in objective terms, so that someone else could fill in the facts on your decision table.”


Measurability is somewhat higher standard that your facts can be quantifiable.


  • Testibility should always be achieved, even if measurability isn’t.
  • Ask yourself “Could someone else fill in your fact table for you?”
  • In measurability, as yourself how to “measure” each of your values.  What units would you use?  These units should be stated in the most meaningful way… “Numbers of days apart/between visits versus number of days visited.”
  • With a little thought, most values are measurable…using hours, or percentage of time such and such is going on.





Meaningfulness requires that each value be stated in terms that are understandable to the decision maker or decision makers and truly expressive of the value in question.

*Terms in plain English

* stated in ways more meaningful to the decision maker. (dollars per hour, per month, or per year)




Non-Redundancy requires that non values be represented more than once.  It attaches undue power to one specific value.


One way to test is to construct a value tree.  Look for values that connect in a set-subset or values that have a similar means (that is being addressed) connected to them both)


Value Independence


Value A is independent of Value B if and only if you can make value judgments about A without knowing about B….


This is the hardest to test..



  1. air bags and braking distance
  2. gas mileage, upkeep cost, insurance, and payments (how much money per month you have to spend on your car)


Easiest way to deal with them is to combine them into one overall value.  Sometimes you may need to take one into account when addressing the other state…like quality of life versus longevity.