Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

A Diagnostic Approach to Alternatives Can Lead to Better Decision-Making

02.03.2010
Researchers led by Philip Fernbach, a cognitive and linguistic sciences graduate student, have found that individuals are more likely to consider alternative causes when they make diagnoses than when they make decisions about the future. The findings suggest that framing problems as diagnostic-likelihood judgments can reduce bias. Details will be in the March 2010 edition of Psychological Science.

Brown University researchers have identified a way to improve thought processes that goes well beyond the “power of positive thinking.” The technique, they argue, may help to navigate around biased ways of thinking and ultimately lead to better planning and decision-making.

Details are published online and will be included in the March 2010 issue of Psychological Science.

“What we looked at was how to get people to think of alternative possibilities, something they don’t always do naturally,” said Philip Fernbach, a cognitive and linguistic sciences graduate student and the paper’s first author. “When making judgments and decisions, people are often myopic; they fail to consider hypotheses beyond the one they have in mind.”

Adam Darlow, a graduate student in the same department, is the paper’s second author. Cognitive and linguistic sciences professor Stephen Sloman served as third author.

Fernbach and the other researchers explored the degree to which people are overly focused on a single cause when pursuing two fundamental kinds of thinking — predicting the likelihood of an outcome and diagnosing the causes of an outcome.

They see these two kinds of thinking as flip sides of the same coin. Predicting outcomes calls for thinking forward from the cause of the outcome, such as predicting the likelihood that someone who goes on a diet will lose weight. But offering a diagnosis involves thinking backward from an outcome to the cause, such as diagnosing whether someone who lost weight dieted.

The researchers conducted three studies with medical professionals and Brown undergraduates. Their findings: In each case, the subjects considered alternative causes when they made diagnoses, but did not do so when making predictions.

Both findings have consequences in day-to day life, Fernbach said.

“Neglecting alternatives when making a prediction leads people to believe the desired results of their actions are less likely than they actually are,” he said.

For example, a person might predict that career success is unlikely because a current project isn’t going well. But that prediction underestimates the potential positive impact from future projects, professional development or other factors.

As far as diagnoses, the research findings reinforce the benefit of encouraging people’s natural ability to pursue diagnostic reasoning. For example, when doctors make a diagnosis, they should consider how likely the disease is given the symptoms, rather than simply deciding whether the disease is likely or unlikely. And a better outcome is possible, they said, when the doctor continues to reassess the diagnosis throughout the course of treatment.

“A typical diagnosis is saying ‘this disease is the cause,’” Darlow said. “We are saying it is important to elaborate beyond that. When you have to make that kind of more detailed judgment, then the alternative causes or hypotheses come to mind — because they have to.”

Overall, the researchers say that considering alternatives when making predictions or diagnoses can lead to better judgments, and therefore better decisions.

“It is a hook to get people to reason better,” Fernbach said.

A grant from the National Science Foundation supported the study.

Mark Hollmer | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.brown.edu

Further reports about: Diagnostic Science TV decision-making linguistic sciences

More articles from Studies and Analyses:

nachricht New study from the University of Halle: How climate change alters plant growth
12.01.2018 | Martin-Luther-Universität Halle-Wittenberg

nachricht Disarray in the brain
18.12.2017 | Universität zu Lübeck

All articles from Studies and Analyses >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Artificial agent designs quantum experiments

On the way to an intelligent laboratory, physicists from Innsbruck and Vienna present an artificial agent that autonomously designs quantum experiments. In initial experiments, the system has independently (re)discovered experimental techniques that are nowadays standard in modern quantum optical laboratories. This shows how machines could play a more creative role in research in the future.

We carry smartphones in our pockets, the streets are dotted with semi-autonomous cars, but in the research laboratory experiments are still being designed by...

Im Focus: Scientists decipher key principle behind reaction of metalloenzymes

So-called pre-distorted states accelerate photochemical reactions too

What enables electrons to be transferred swiftly, for example during photosynthesis? An interdisciplinary team of researchers has worked out the details of how...

Im Focus: The first precise measurement of a single molecule's effective charge

For the first time, scientists have precisely measured the effective electrical charge of a single molecule in solution. This fundamental insight of an SNSF Professor could also pave the way for future medical diagnostics.

Electrical charge is one of the key properties that allows molecules to interact. Life itself depends on this phenomenon: many biological processes involve...

Im Focus: Paradigm shift in Paris: Encouraging an holistic view of laser machining

At the JEC World Composite Show in Paris in March 2018, the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT will be focusing on the latest trends and innovations in laser machining of composites. Among other things, researchers at the booth shared with the Aachen Center for Integrative Lightweight Production (AZL) will demonstrate how lasers can be used for joining, structuring, cutting and drilling composite materials.

No other industry has attracted as much public attention to composite materials as the automotive industry, which along with the aerospace industry is a driver...

Im Focus: Room-temperature multiferroic thin films and their properties

Scientists at Tokyo Institute of Technology (Tokyo Tech) and Tohoku University have developed high-quality GFO epitaxial films and systematically investigated their ferroelectric and ferromagnetic properties. They also demonstrated the room-temperature magnetocapacitance effects of these GFO thin films.

Multiferroic materials show magnetically driven ferroelectricity. They are attracting increasing attention because of their fascinating properties such as...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

10th International Symposium: “Advanced Battery Power – Kraftwerk Batterie” Münster, 10-11 April 2018

08.01.2018 | Event News

See, understand and experience the work of the future

11.12.2017 | Event News

Innovative strategies to tackle parasitic worms

08.12.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Let the good tubes roll

19.01.2018 | Materials Sciences

How cancer metastasis happens: Researchers reveal a key mechanism

19.01.2018 | Health and Medicine

Meteoritic stardust unlocks timing of supernova dust formation

19.01.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>