How Experts Make Decisions Under Uncertainty

How Experts Make Decisions Under Uncertainty - How Experts...

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Brett N. Steenbarger, Ph.D. A recent research study reported in the New York Times (January 20, 2004; Subconsciously, Athletes May Play Like Statisticians by David Leonhardt;) offered intriguing insights into how athletes are able to make complex decisions in a split-second fashion. Consider a couple of examples that I have assembled: A major league baseball batter faces a pitch thrown at over 80 miles per hour. The pitch is headed directly for the batter’s head. If it is a curve ball, the pitch may break down and away for a strike. In that case, the batter will want to stand his ground and take a swing. If it is a straight fastball, the pitch may strike the batter and end his career. In a couple of moments, the batter must assess numerous variables to determine whether to stay in the batter’s box and swing or duck and protect himself. The speed and rotation of the ball, the movement of the pitcher’s hand, knowledge of the pitcher’s repertoire—all to into an equation that is solved faster than it can be verbalized. Col. John Boyd studied the behavior of “top gun” fighter pilots of military aircraft and found that, during dogfights with enemy planes, they make sophisticated decisions in a matter of seconds. He described the decision-making process of Observe, Orient, Decide, and Act (OODA), and became convinced that the key to training was to accelerate the OODA loops so that pilots could respond more quickly and accurately than the enemy. A top pilot himself, Boyd was famous for his challenge that he could start from a position of disadvantage in the air and get behind the tail of any pilot who challenged him within 13 seconds—a challenge he apparently never lost. What makes these examples worthy of consideration is that the expert performer is facing a high degree of uncertainty. There is no way of predicting in advance whether a pitcher will throw one pitch or another, and there is no way of anticipating one’s next adversary in the air. Once the situation arises, there is also no opportunity for calm, rational, explicit reasoning through the situation. The subconscious mind must assess the relevant variables and make the
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How Experts Make Decisions Under Uncertainty - How Experts...

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