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 The Great Unknown: Risk-Taking Behavior in Adolescents
19.01.2017 | Max-Planck-Institut für Bildungsforschung

nachricht A sudden drop in outdoor temperature increases the risk of respiratory infections
11.01.2017 | University of Gothenburg

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: Traffic jam in empty space

New success for Konstanz physicists in studying the quantum vacuum

An important step towards a completely new experimental access to quantum physics has been made at University of Konstanz. The team of scientists headed by...

Im Focus: How gut bacteria can make us ill

HZI researchers decipher infection mechanisms of Yersinia and immune responses of the host

Yersiniae cause severe intestinal infections. Studies using Yersinia pseudotuberculosis as a model organism aim to elucidate the infection mechanisms of these...

Im Focus: Interfacial Superconductivity: Magnetic and superconducting order revealed simultaneously

Researchers from the University of Hamburg in Germany, in collaboration with colleagues from the University of Aarhus in Denmark, have synthesized a new superconducting material by growing a few layers of an antiferromagnetic transition-metal chalcogenide on a bismuth-based topological insulator, both being non-superconducting materials.

While superconductivity and magnetism are generally believed to be mutually exclusive, surprisingly, in this new material, superconducting correlations...

Im Focus: Studying fundamental particles in materials

Laser-driving of semimetals allows creating novel quasiparticle states within condensed matter systems and switching between different states on ultrafast time scales

Studying properties of fundamental particles in condensed matter systems is a promising approach to quantum field theory. Quasiparticles offer the opportunity...

Im Focus: Designing Architecture with Solar Building Envelopes

Among the general public, solar thermal energy is currently associated with dark blue, rectangular collectors on building roofs. Technologies are needed for aesthetically high quality architecture which offer the architect more room for manoeuvre when it comes to low- and plus-energy buildings. With the “ArKol” project, researchers at Fraunhofer ISE together with partners are currently developing two façade collectors for solar thermal energy generation, which permit a high degree of design flexibility: a strip collector for opaque façade sections and a solar thermal blind for transparent sections. The current state of the two developments will be presented at the BAU 2017 trade fair.

As part of the “ArKol – development of architecturally highly integrated façade collectors with heat pipes” project, Fraunhofer ISE together with its partners...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Sustainable Water use in Agriculture in Eastern Europe and Central Asia

19.01.2017 | Event News

12V, 48V, high-voltage – trends in E/E automotive architecture

10.01.2017 | Event News

2nd Conference on Non-Textual Information on 10 and 11 May 2017 in Hannover

09.01.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

The interactome of infected neural cells reveals new therapeutic targets for Zika

23.01.2017 | Life Sciences

Melting solid below the freezing point

23.01.2017 | Materials Sciences

Helmholtz International Fellow Award for Sarah Amalia Teichmann

20.01.2017 | Awards Funding

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>