Risk Perception & Strategic Decision Making: General Insights, a New Framework, and Specific Application to Electricity Generation Using Nuclear Energy

  • Brewer J
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The objective of this report is to promote increased understanding of decision making processes and hopefully to enable improved decision making regarding high-consequence, highly sophisticated technological systems. This report brings together insights regarding risk perception and decision making across domains ranging from nuclear power technology safety, cognitive psychology, economics, science education, public policy, and neural science (to name a few). It forms them into a unique, coherent, concise framework, and list of strategies to aid in decision making. It is suggested that all decision makers, whether ordinary citizens, academics, or political leaders, ought to cultivate their abilities to separate the wheat from the chaff in these types of decision making instances. The wheat includes proper data sources and helpful human decision making heuristics; these should be sought. The chaff includes ‘unhelpful biases’ that hinder proper interpretation of available data and lead people unwittingly toward inappropriate decision making ‘strategies’; obviously, these should be avoided. It is further proposed that successfully accomplishing the wheat vs. chaff separation is very difficult, yet tenable. This report hopes to expose and facilitate navigation away from decision-making traps which often ensnare the unwary. Furthermore, it is emphasized that one’s personal decision making biases can be examined, and tools can be provided allowing better means to generate, evaluate, and select among decision options. Many examples in this report are tailored to the energy domain (esp. nuclear power for electricity generation). The decision making framework and approach presented here are applicable to any high-consequence, highly sophisticated technological system.

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  • Jeffrey D. Brewer

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