Reducing Perceptual and Cognitive Challenges in Making Decisions with Models
Decision makers face perceptual and cognitive challenges in understanding presentations of formal models used to support decisions. These presentations, often made by analysts who created the models, must allow the decision makers not only to acquire information but also to process that information into a form that they can use effectively for decision making.
This chapter illuminates the occurrence of eleven well-known perceptual and cognitive challenges that decision makers may face as they receive and use the results of formal models. It also discusses features of the modeling process that have either aided or hindered decision makers in overcoming these perceptual and cognitive challenges, and draws some conclusions about ways in which people might improve the modeling process to reduce the severity of perceptual and cognitive challenges and thereby to improve the decision-maker's effectiveness.
Using retrospective case analysis, with the known set of perceptual and cognitive challenges as themes, we examine the presence and nature of these themes across five modeling projects. The selected projects span diverse disciplines and vary in the type and complexity of the models developed and in the characteristics of the decision makers.
Through examination of the case studies, we see evidence of five of the perceptual and cognitive challenges and indication of an additional two challenges. These challenges stem from the nature of the model presentation, from the roles of the analyst and decision maker in the modeling process, or from factors external to that process. From the results of the case analysis we derive a condensed checklist of recommendations for analysts.
By identifying perceptual and cognitive traps along with their sources, this work provides insight not only into what challenges are likely to exist when decision makers use models as a part of their decision-making process, but also into how the structure of the modeling process and the model presentation allow those challenges to arise.
KeywordsDecision Maker Model Presentation Formal Model Risk Communication Case Study Research
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