Understanding farmers' decision making processes and improving managerial assistance

Bo Öhlmér, Kent Olson, Berndt Brehmer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

112 Scopus citations


Few studies have been made of how farmers make decisions. Most research and teaching has focused on the decision event, not the whole process. Current knowledge of the decision making process is reviewed and described as a set of eight functions or elements: values and goals, problem detection, problem definition, observation, analysis, development of intention, implementation, and responsibility bearing. The relevancy of this view of farmers' decision making behavior is tested through a series of case studies. Based on these observations, the conceptual model of the decision process is revised to include four phases and four subprocesses. The four phases are problem detection, problem definition, analysis and choice, and implementation. The four subprocesses are searching and paying attention, planning, evaluating and choosing, and checking the choice. In addition, we note that farmers prefer the ability to continually update their evaluation and plans, a qualitative vs. quantitative analysis, a 'quick and simple' vs. detailed and elaborate analysis, small tests and incremental implementation, and feed forward and compensation vs. post-implementation evaluation. Implications of this fuller view of the decision making process for management assistance are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)273-290
Number of pages18
JournalAgricultural Economics
Issue number3
StatePublished - May 29 1998
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The project was financed in part by the Foundation of Agricultural Research (SLF), Stockholm, Sweden.


  • Decision aids
  • Decision making
  • Farm management
  • Management assistance
  • Psychological models


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