Classical Decision Theory  is based on the premise that decision makers have complete information with a clearly defined problem, knowledge of each available alternative to address the problem, and knowledge of the consequences of each alternative.


Behavioral Decision Theory  is based on the premise that decision-makers do not have complete information and take action based on what they perceive about a situation. The problem is not clearly defined, knowledge of alternatives is limited, and knowledge of the consequences of each alternative is limited.


Satisficing is based on the premise that decision makers have limited information and limited time. They review alternatives and select the first alternative they find that appears to provide a satisfactory solution to the problem.


Garbage Can Model  is where everything involved in the decision-making process—problems, solutions, decision makers, and alternatives—is mixed up without a clear process for making decisions. Decisions are made quickly by whoever has the time and resources to make the decision. Things happen in a haphazard manner that may or may not work well.

Ethics as an Issue in Decision Making

Based on the above discussion, decision making seems like a fairly straightforward process, and it can be. But when ethical considerations are included in the process, it becomes more complex. Decision makers may want to consider deontological or teleological reasoning.

To review, as explained in Lesson 1, with deontology, it is important to do the right thing.  Deontological reasoning  justifies the end result, no matter the outcome, as long as the actions taken to achieve it are moral.  Teleological reasoning , on the other hand, justifies the end result, even if the means to achieve it are not morally right.

Which approach should public administrators use—deontological or teleological reasoning? Is one approach more ethical than the other? If both of them are ethical, how do public administrators select one over the other?

Questions such as this can be difficult to answer, and they are important considerations in the decision making process. Cooper (2006) agrees with this premise, and he acknowledges that it is difficult to apply the same principles of ethics from one situation to another. In government work, each situation is unique and may require public administrators to reconsider their approach to ethics. In sum, what constitutes ethical behavior and ethical decisions in one situation may not work in another.


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