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Multi-criteria Decision Analysis: Methods and Software

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People face making decisions both in their professional and private lives. A manager in a company, for example, may need to evaluate suppliers and develop partnerships with the best ones. A household may need to choose an energy supplier for their family home. Students cannot ignore university rankings. Often candidates for a job vacancy are ‘ranked’ based on their experience, performance during the interview, etc.

As well as ranking and choice problems, there are also classification problems that have existed since classical times. In the fourth century bc, the ancient Greek philosopher Epicurus arranged human desires into two classes: vain desires (e.g. the desire for immortality) and natural desires (e.g. the desire for pleasure). These classifications were supposed to help in finding inner peace. Nowadays, classification problems occur naturally in daily life. A doctor, for instance, diagnoses a patient on the basis of their symptoms and assigns them to a pathology class to be able to prescribe the appropriate treatment. In enterprise, projects are often sorted into priority-based categories. Not long ago, a study showed that over 20 million Brazilians have moved from the lower social categories (D and E) to category C, the first tier of the middle class, and are now active consumers due to an increase in legal employment (Observador 2008). Hurricanes or cyclones are sorted into one of the five Saffir–Simpson categories based on their wind speed, superficial pressure and tide height.

All of these examples show that delicate decision problems arise frequently. Decision problems such as ranking, choice and sorting problems are often complex as they usually involve several criteria. People no longer consider only one criterion (e.g. price) when making a decision. To build long-term relationships, make sustainable and environmentally friendly decisions, companies consider multiple criteria in their decision process.
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