Paired Comparison Analysis- A tool for Decision Making

When you get some options and you have to choose the best one, how do you decide which one to choose? This in particular very challenging when your options are unique in contrast to each other and if the criteria based on which you have to take your decisions are subjective. Primarily we can take the help of the Decision Matrix, but for getting accurate results introduce the Paired Comparison Analysis.


What is Paired Comparison Analysis?

So, This tool helps you compare ideas in pairs. You have to compare one idea with the other and evaluate which of the 2 is better. Hence, it is a Paired comparison. 

Note that this comparison is based on your view, all your current knowledge about the potential of both ideas. You may or may not have any actual data for your views, But at this stage, it is fine. 

Paired Comparison, also known as Pairwise comparison has its uses in many fields like the scientific study of preferences, attitude, and voting system, etc.

So, According to Wikipedia L. L. Thurstone, a well-known Psychometrician proposed a scientific approach using the Pairwise Comparison for measurements in 1927.

Paired Comparison Chart

Suppose you have 5 ideas and you want to select the best one. As seen in the chart write your ideas along the left-most column and again write all your ideas along the top row.

Start with the smoothie idea on the horizontal row. I would compare it 1 by 1 with the ideas on the vertical columns. Remember that the score is for the idea on the horizontal row and what I will do is assign a value from -3 to +3. A score of 3 means that the idea in the horizontal row is much better than the idea on the vertical column.

A score of 0 means that there’s not much of a difference in the quality of the ideas in the horizontal row to the vertical column and a score of -3 means that the idea in the horizontal row is much worse than the idea in the vertical column.

The green boxes are where you input the scores. The grey boxes automatically show the corresponding score for the idea it is being compared to. 

So let’s say I compared the smoothie idea to the cardboard furniture idea. I give it a score of 2 in the green box as this idea is better, but not dramatically better than the cardboard idea. The formula automatically gives a -2 in the row belonging to the cardboard furniture. It is exactly the opposite of the score I gave implying that it is worse than the smoothie idea. 

The smoothie idea is then compared to the other ideas listed in the vertical column. So, then compared to the Bluetooth idea it is again given a score of 2. But when it is compared to the personalized tea idea it’s scored as 3 as the smoothie idea, in my opinion, is significantly better than the personalized tea idea. 


When compared to the travel website I give it a score of 2 again. The opposite scores are also put in the grey boxes corresponding to those ideas.


For example, as we have put 3 in the green box under the Personalized tea option, -3 is automatically put in the grey box corresponding to Personalized tea on the horizontal row. 

These scores are not assigned based on any factors. I have assigned these scores based on my gut feeling or instinct. When you do a paired comparison analysis for the given ideas feel free to use your instincts. 

Now, put all the other scores for all other choices accordingly. Then just add all the values in the same row. 

For the smoothie row, the total value is 2+2+3+2= 9

For the cardboard furniture row, the total value is -2+2+1+1= 2

Also, Calculate the total values for Bluetooth sunglasses, personalized tea, and travel website.


Now we can see the results. The smoothie idea wins with a wide margin. But to get a more accurate value, we may also use the Decision Matrix. 


Suppose we want to judge these ideas based on six factors and create a Decision matrix chart accordingly.  To get the best score, we may add the total scores of different ideas we got from the Paired Comparison chart to the score of the Decision matrix chart. Now we can see the Smoothie idea is the best one.


Advantages of Paired Comparison Analysis 

Paired Comparison analysis has some specific advantages.

The advantages are,

  1. It is easy to calculate.
  2. Also, It can be used when the priorities are not clear.
  3. It is especially found helpful where you have no objective data to depend upon.
  4. Applying this tool, we can easily identify the best option.


Paired Comparison analysis is one of the best tools concerned with decision making.  Be it a business decision or any other decision, It can be implemented to get the best possible outcome.

Also You can read our blog on Prospect Theory- An analysis of decision under Risk and Uncertainty


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