Having recognized coherent information from the stimuli reaching our senses, a course of action has to be decided upon. In other words, decision making occurs.
Decision making is the generation of an alternative course of action based on available information, knowledge, prior experience, expectation, context, goals, etc. and selecting one preferred option. It is also described as thinking, problem solving and judgement. This may range from deciding to do nothing, to deciding to act immediately in a very specific manner.
A GPWS “pull up” warning, for instance, may trigger a well-trained sequence of actions without further thought (i.e. pull back on stick); alternatively, an unfamiliar cockpit warning may require further information to be gathered before an appropriate course of action can be initiated. We are not usually fully aware of the processes and information which we use to make a decision. Tools can be used to assist the process of making a decision, the most common in flight operations being checklists and QRHs containing SOPs. Thus, good decisions are based on knowledge supplemented by written information and procedures, analysis of observed symptoms, performance indications, etc. It can be dangerous to believe that existing knowledge and prior experience will always be sufficient in every situation as will be shown in later sections dealing with “Information Processing Limitations”.
Finally, once a decision has been made, an appropriate action can be carried out. Our senses receive feedback of this and its result. This helps to improve knowledge and refine future judgement by learning from experience.