Making decisions under uncertainty #6

Posted on September 24, 2011


Finally we consider the procrastinater – the worry-wort, the decision maker tht lacks enough confidence (C)  in either an initial position (Ei) position or hypothesis, or in a method or ritual (g) for generating one (e.g., follow-the-leader (Ej).

Ef = f[C, Ei + (1 – C)g(E1, E2, . . . , Ej . . . , En)

Confidence level


C = 0.9 to 1 True deductive believer—rejects (–) evidence
C = 0.7 to 0.8 Strong deductive believer—discounts (–) evidence
C = 0.4 to 0.6 Reasonable person who becomes overwhelmed by information overload and conflicting evidence; unproductive because of inability to settle on a given hypothesis (Ei), or evidence-sorting ritual (g), long enough to go to press
C = 0.2 to 0.3 Strong inductive believer—sophisticated (g’s)
C = 0.1 to 0 True inductive believer—dogmatic (g) rituals

Next we consider the reasonable person who can’t make a decision because they’re to open minded – there’s much to be said for all sides.

middling believers

Next, according to the model, we should encounter the largest group of unproductive decision makers among citizens and scientists—namely, those who’s confidence in the hypothesis or initial opinion is middling (e.g., C = 0.4 to 0.6). Here we encounter the procrastinaters who can’t quite make up their mind about whether the opinion or hunch is worth backing or the if a scientists whether the hypothesis is worth investigating. Furthermore, if a scientists and they  if they were thinking of investigating it, they wouldn’t be sure which data collection and editing method (g) to use because the of the limited amount of confidence (1-C range between .4 and .6). So they’re in an unstable state. They  vacillate back and forth, making false or faint-hearted attempts because they don’t have enough confidence in either a particular initial position or  hypotheses (Ei) , or in a particular method or technology (g). In this category, we find millions of unertian citizens – should I or shouldn’t I buy, invest, marry, divorce, borrow, etc, as well as thousands of undergraduate and graduate students vacillating and procrastinating over research projects and thesis topics. Moreover, they continue to do so until a semi-rational decision aid, like a deadline or a crises or group pressure forces them to make a choice and go through the motions, at least. Alternatively, for students their professor may assign them their hypothesis (and their method), perhaps one that the prof is working on excitedly, or one that needed  to meet a grant deadline. In this middling confidence category we find most  PhDs who never do any more research after they graduate. We find, too, a host of faculty who stop doing research because they are ‘too open-minded’, because there is much to be said for and against any hypothesis, and for and against any research method or statistical analysis. So, according to our model, being open-minded is not an advantage for citizens  or social scientists, prorastinaters, worry-warts, or those or end up leading lives where other people – mates or bosses – make their decisions for them. Which is not necessarily a bad thing – the world needs followers! And many followers seem happy to oblige.

Posted in: Sciencing