Rationality for Engineers: Part IV: Misconceptions and Debiasing

Document Type : Original Article


Brunel University, London


Humans are thought of as predictably irrational, primarily due to apparent inconsistencies in their decision-making.  When presented with the same information on different occasions, the same people often draw different conclusions. There is a noise in the decision-making of individuals, whether in the same or a different environment. Humans are likened to a faulty scale; every time you weigh the same thing you get a different answer. This variation is more pronounced when we examine decisions by different decision-makers. Noise in decisions implies that humans’ internal gauges are imprecise and that their dial rests on a different position when confronted with the same choice at different times. Decision errors can relate to; correlation, causal reasoning, probabilistic reasoning, thinking statistically, hypothetical thought, dubious justification, not seeing everything, and even seeing something which is not there. This part of this series of papers attempts to clarify errors in engineers’ decision-making processes and describe how to avoid them.