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Supporting decision making by a critical thinking tool

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Author: Dongen, C.J.G. van · Schraagen, J.M.C. · Eikelboom, A. · Brake, G.M. te
Institution: TNO Defensie en Veiligheid
Source:49th Annual Meeting of the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society, HFES 2005, 26 September 2005 through 30 September 2005, Orlando, FL,, 517-521
Identifier: 15877
Keywords: Safety Psychology Command and control · Decision making · Human error · Confirmation bias · Crisis management · Critical thinking · Decision support · Fixation errors · Framing · Information order · Story building · Computer aided software engineering · Error correction · Information analysis · Information systems · Information use · Large scale systems · Confirmation bias · Crisis management · Critical thinking tools · Fixation errors · Information order · Story building · Decision support systems


Building up situation understanding is one of the most difficult tasks in the beginning stages of largescale accidents. As ambiguous information about the events becomes available, decision-makers are often tempted to quickly develop a particular story to explain the observed events. As the accident evolves, decision-makers can fail to revise their initial assessments despite contradicting information. Our approach is to reduce fixation errors and confirmation bias by providing critical thinking support. In a laboratory experiment with 60 participants, we compared the effect on decision making of a critical thinking tool, which requires the explication of evidence-conclusion relations in situation assessment, with two control conditions. Participants acted as crisis managers determining the likely cause of accidents. The results show a positive impact of the tool on both the decision-making process and decision making effectiveness. Participants did, however, take more time to arrive at a conclusion using the tool.