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Solid Earth An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
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Discussion papers
https://doi.org/10.5194/se-2019-70
© Author(s) 2019. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.
https://doi.org/10.5194/se-2019-70
© Author(s) 2019. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Review article 05 Apr 2019

Review article | 05 Apr 2019

Review status
This discussion paper is a preprint. It is a manuscript under review for the journal Solid Earth (SE).

How can geologic decision making under uncertainty be improved?

Cristina G. Wilson1,2, Clare E. Bond3, and Thomas F. Shipley4 Cristina G. Wilson et al.
  • 1Department of Psychology, College of Arts and Sciences, Temple University, Philadelphia, PA, USA
  • 2Department of Electrical and Systems Engineering, School of Engineering and Applied Science, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA, USA
  • 3Department of Geology and Petroleum Geology, School of Geosciences, University of Aberdeen, Kings College, Aberdeen, UK
  • 4Department of Psychology, College of Arts and Sciences, Temple University, Philadelphia, PA, USA

Abstract. In the geosciences, recent attention has been paid to the influence of uncertainty on expert decision making. When making decisions under conditions of uncertainty, people tend to employ heuristics (rules of thumb) based on experience, relying on their prior knowledge and beliefs to intuitively guide choice. Over 50 years of decision making research in cognitive psychology demonstrates that heuristics can lead to less-than-optimal decisions, collectively referred to as biases. For example, a geologist who confidently interprets ambiguous data as representative of a familiar category form their research (e.g., strike slip faults for expert in extensional domains) is exhibiting the availability bias, which occurs when people make judgments based on what is most dominant or accessible in memory. Given the important social and commercial implications of many geoscience decisions, there is a need to develop effective interventions for removing or mitigating decision bias. In this paper, we summarize the key insights from decision making research about how to reduce bias and review the literature on debiasing strategies. First, we define an optimal decision, since improving decision making requires having a standard to work towards. Next, we discuss the cognitive mechanisms underlying decision biases and describe three biases that have been shown to influence geoscientists decision making (availability bias, framing bias, anchoring bias). Finally, we review existing debiasing strategies that have applicability in the geosciences, with special attention given to those strategies that make use of information technology and artificial intelligence (AI). We present two case studies illustrating different applications of intelligent systems for the debiasing of geoscientific decision making, where debiased decision making is an emergent property of the coordinated and integrated processing of human-AI collaborative teams.

Cristina G. Wilson et al.
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Cristina G. Wilson et al.
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Short summary
In this paper, we outline the key insights from decision making research about how, when faced with uncertainty, humans constrain decision through the use of heuristics (rules of thumb), making them vulnerable to systematic and sub-optimal decision biases. We also review existing strategies to debias decisions that have applicability in the geosciences, giving special attention to those strategies that make use of information technology and artificial intelligence.
In this paper, we outline the key insights from decision making research about how, when faced...
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