# Sarah Lichtenstein's research while affiliated with Decision Research and other places

## Publications (99)

Article
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Subjective judgments, whether by experts or lay people, are a major component in any risk assessment. If such judgments are faulty, efforts at public and environmental protection are likely to be misdirected. The present paper begins with an analysis of biases exhibited by lay people and experts when they make judgments about risk. Next, the simila...
Article
Subjective judgments, whether by experts or lay people, are a major component in any risk assessment. If such judgments are faulty, efforts at public and environmental protection are likely to be misdirected. The present paper begins with an analysis of biases exhibited by lay people and experts when they make judgments about risk. Next, the simila...
Article
Subjects valued environmental goods using a response mode expressing willingness to pay as a multiplier or divider of a purported "budgetary unit." Hypothetical willingness to pay was found to be highly dependent on the size of the budgetary unit. Rejecting two other interpretations, we believe the results suggest that people's contingent values ar...
Article
Risk-perception research plays an active role in discussion of risk-management alternatives. However, little guidance is provided regarding how public concerns should be weighed against other sources of cost and benefits. This paper reports the results of two experiments that measure tradeoffs among cost (in dollars), a quantitative risk measure (n...
Article
Contextual influences are known to affect the reference position adopted by an individual when making a decision. However, little empirical evidence exists to show that such changes will result in predictable alterations in individuals′ expressed values for realistic policy alternatives. In this paper we present the results of five problem pairs th...
Article
The use of contingent valuation (CV) methods for estimating the economic value of environmental improvements and damages has increased significantly. However, doubts exist regarding the validity of the usual willingness to pay CV methods. In this article, we examine the CV approach in light of recent findings from behavioral decision research regar...
Article
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Numerous studies have demonstrated that theoretically equivalent measures of preference, such as choices and prices, can lead to systematically different preference orderings, known as preference reversals. Two major causes of preference reversals are the compatibility effect and the prominence effect. The present studies demonstrate that the combi...
Article
This paper proposes an approach for assessing the quality of expressed preference measures of value. A set of attributes relevant to public policy and social choice was used to distinguish between private and public goods. The relationship between the attribute variables and four different expressions of value (willingness to pay, cost, importance,...
Article
An important part of decision making in many contexts is the estimation of numerical values for uncertain quantities, such as the projected costs of a development project or the number of people who use illegal drugs. In previous research, estimation accuracy for such quantities was found to be improved by algorithmic decomposition. The present stu...
Article
An algorithm is a series of steps or operations that, when sequentially applied, produces a solution to a problem. Properly applied, algorithms are helpful when a complex or difficult numerical question can be broken into subquestions. This paper identifies and details a serious barrier to the effective use of algorithms: weak mathematical skills....
Article
This research note discusses one important finding from decision aiding research, that people often have relevant knowledge that they do not use effectively when making a judgement or decision. Research has shown, however, that simple 'wholistic' judgements can be improved upon through an approach that breaks up or decomposes the problem into a ser...
Article
Decision problems can be characterized by their surface structure (the story as presented) and their deep structure (the representation of the problem used by a respondent or as specified by a psychological theory). We started with a story problem about an island with a life-threatening epidemic. The authors of this problem (Hammerton, Jones-Lee an...
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Article
We critique two 1986 Department of Energy reports concerning the selection of sites for characterization as the nation's first high-level nuclear waste repository. We find that the multiattribute utility analysis of the five nominated sites was well done, although we express concern about the assessed probabilities, question the construction of two...
Article
Subjects were asked to estimate the answers to 16 questions concerning uncertain quantities like, “How many people are employed by hospitals in the U.S.?” under five different aiding conditions. The most-aided group (Full Algorithm) was given a complete algorithm and asked to make estimates for all the parts of the algorithm and to combine the part...
Article
In industrialized societies, the question “How safe is safe enough?” has emerged as a major policy issue of the 1980s. The frequent discovery of new hazards and the widespread publicity they receive is causing more and more individuals to see themselves as the victims, rather than as the beneficiaries, of technology. These fears and the opposition...
Chapter
Each year an estimated 17–31% of the U.S. mortality rate is associated with undesired side effects of technology (Harriss, Hohenemser, and Kates 1978). The productivity loss from technology-related illness, death, and pollution is equivalent to 3–6% of the gross national product (GNP). When combined with the cost of private and public sector effort...
Chapter
People respond to the hazards they perceive. If their perceptions are faulty, efforts at public and environmental protection are likely to be misdirected. In order to improve hazard management, a risk assessment industry has developed over the last decade which combines the efforts of physical, biological, and social scientists in an attempt to ide...
Article
In this chapter, we report on three psychometric scaling studies, summarized in Table 1. In each study, participants rated a given set of hazards on a range of risk characteristics and indicated the degree of risk reduction and regulation they desired. Based on this data, we explore the relationships among risk characteristics and a smaller number...
Article
Behavioral decision theory can contribute in many ways to the management and regulation of risk. In recent years, empirical and theoretical research on decision making under risk has produced a body of knowledge that should be of value to those who seek to understand and improve societal decisions. This paper describes several components of this re...
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A number of proposals have been put forth regarding the proper way to model the societal impact of fatal accidents. Most of these proposals are based on some form of utility function asserting that the social cost (or disutility) of N lives lost in a single accident is a function of N<sup>\alpha </sup>. A common view is that a single large accident...
Article
How much information should be provided to patients about prescription drug side effects? What determines the perceived seriousness of a drug side effect and how does seriousness relate to the need to inform patients about that effect? This study explored these questions in a survey of laypersons, physicians, and pharmacists. The results indicated...
Article
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Four groups of college students were each given two base-rate problems. Three of the groups were given an aid with the first problem: (a) An instruction to list factors or aspects that were relevant to solving the problem, (b) a fill-in-the-blank algorithm that provided the correct solution, or (c) a seven-page tutorial that explained base-rate pro...
Chapter
Werturteile, die ein Anzeichen für die Erwünschtheit möglicher Entscheidungsergebnisse sind, bilden den Kern jedes Risk Assessment. Verfechter der Risikoforschung befürworten im allgemeinen eine Arbeitsteilung zwischen technischen Sachverständigen und der laienhaften Öffentlichkeit, wobei die ersteren für die Fakten und die letzteren für die Werte...
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Article
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A recent public opinion survey (Harris, 1980) reported the following three results: a) Among four “leadership groups” (top corporate executives investors/lenders, Congressional representatives and federal regulators), 94–98% of all respondents agreed with the statement “even in areas in which the actual level of risk may have decreased in the past...
Article
En la UE se ha estimado que los costes de la congesti�n representan el 2% de su PIB y que el coste de la poluci�n del aire y ruido supera el 0,6% del PIB, siendo alrededor del 90% de los mismos ocasionados por el transporte terrestre. Ante este hecho y el continuo aumento de la demanda del transporte privado frente al p�blico para los desplazamient...
Article
People tend to be inadequately sensitive to the extent of their own knowledge. This insensitivity typically emerges as overconfidence. That is, people’s assessments of the probability of having answered questions correctly are typically too high compared to the portion of questions they get right. Few debiasing procedures have proven effective agai...
Article
This technical report is a prototype elementary textbook for teaching reasoning processes and decision making under conditions of uncertainty. It is written at an introductory level and designed to be usable for nontechnical personnel. The text is based on a translation of a Hebrew book and adapted for the American student audience. The original ma...
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Public perceptions of risk are a focal point of many debates about the management of hazardous technologies. Different views about what the public knows and wants often lead to quite different beliefs about what policies should be adopted and even about how society's policy-making processes should be structured. Often these views about the public a...
Article
Studies of risk perception examine the opinions people express when they are asked, in various ways, to characterize and evaluate hazardous activities and technologies. This research aims to aid risk analysis and societal decision making by (i) improving methods for eliciting opinions about risk, (ii) providing a basis for understanding and anticip...
Article
Calibration concerns the relationship between subjective probabilities and the long-run frequencies of events. Theorems from the statistical and probability literature are reviewed to discover the conditions under which a coherent Bayesian expects to be calibrated. If the probability assessor knows the outcomes of all previous events when making ea...
Book
The common denominator of a growing number of hard decisions facing modern societies is the need to determine 'how safe is safe enough?'. The authors begin by defining acceptable-risk problems and analysing why they are so difficult to resolve, considering such issues as uncertainty about their definition, lack of relevant facts, conflicting and co...
Article
Designers of programs for informing the public about radiation hazards need to consider the difficulties inherent in communicating highly technical information about risk. To be effective, information campaigns must be buttressed by empirical research aimed at determining what people know, what they want to know, and how best to convey that informa...
Article
Full-text available
Subjective judgements, whether by experts or lay people, are a major component in any risk assessment. If such judgements are faulty, risk management efforts are likely to be misdirected. This paper begins with an analysis of biases exhibited by lay people and experts when they make judgements about risk. Next, the similarities and differences betw...
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Acceptable-risk decisions are an essential step in the management of technological hazards. In many situations, they constitute the weak (or missing) link in the management process. The absence of an adequate decision-making methodology often produces indecision, inconsistency, and dissatisfaction. The result is neither good for hazard management n...
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Two experiments attempted to improve the quality of people's probability assessments through intensive training. The first involved 11 sessions of 200 assessments each followed by comprehensive feedback. It produced considerable learning, almost all of which was accomplished after receipt of the first feedback. There was modest generalization to se...
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Previous studies have suggested that the general public misinterprets probability of precipitation (PoP) forecasts, leading some meteorologists to argue that probabilities should not be included in public weather forecasts. Upon closer examination, however, these studies prove to be ambiguous with regard to the nature of the misunderstanding. Is th...
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Two experiments with 268 paid volunteers investigated the possibility that assessment of confidence is biased by attempts to justify one's chosen answer. These attempts include selectively focusing on evidence supporting the chosen answer and disregarding evidence contradicting it. Exp I presented Ss with 2-alternative questions and required them t...
Article
Summarizes a study of 79 residents of Eugene, Oreg., who completed a questionnaire designed to investigate their understanding of and attitude toward precipitation probability forecasts. Results indicate that the event in question frequently is misunderstood. On the other hand, the probabilities themselves are well understood. The results of this s...
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Previous studies have concluded that when making inferences, people tend to ignore various kinds of normatively important information (e.g., sample size, base rates). The basis for such conclusions has typically been the similarity of responses across groups presented with widely discrepant values of that information. The experiments reported here...
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The nuclear industry's standstill over legal uncertainties and the lack of clear criteria on which to decide hazard management questions is typical of the frustrations in assessing new technologies to see if they are safe enough. Four techniques of risk assessment are described; (1) cost-benefit analysis, in which benefits outweighing costs can det...
Article
Full-text available
People respond to the hazards they perceive. If their perceptions are faulty, efforts at public and environmental protection are likely to be misdirected. In order to improve hazard management, a risk assessment industry has developed over the last decade which combines the efforts of physical, biological, and social scientists in an attempt to ide...
Article
Public response to risks of nuclear energy is investigated. A quantitative description of the attitudes, perceptions, and expectations of some members of the antinuclear public is given. Sample studies of the public at large were not made; most of the data in the paper comes from survey made at the University of Oregon and another with members of t...
Article
Motorists' reluctance to wear seat belts is examined in light of research showing (a) that protective behavior is influenced more by the probability of a hazard than by the magnitude of its consequences and (b) that people are not inclined to protect themselves voluntarily against very low probability threats. It is argued that the probability of d...
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A series of 5 experiments with 660 adult Ss studied how people judge the frequency of death from various causes. The judgments exhibited a highly consistent but systematically biased subjective scale of frequency. Two kinds of bias were identified: (a) a tendency to overestimate small frequencies and underestimate larger ones; and (b) a tendency to...
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Fault trees represent problem situations by organizing "things that could go wrong" into functional categories. Such trees are essential devices for analyzing and evaluating the fallibility of complex systems. They follow many different formats, sometimes by design, other times inadvertently. The present study examined the effects of varying 3 aspe...
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I. Azjen and M. Fishbein (see record 1975-21012-001) have offered the rules of Bayesian inference as a unifying framework for research on attribution processes. It is suggested that the usefulness of their theory, however, is restricted by difficulties encountered in applying Bayes's theorem as either a normative or a descriptive model of attribut...
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The past 15 years have seen important advances in the understanding of behavioral decision processes. Despite these advances there has been surprisingly little attention paid to the training of decision makers. This report provides a summary of a conference held in July 1976 in Eugene, Oregon to evaluate the state of knowledge regarding the trainin...
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One of the fundamental questions addressed by risk-benefit analysis is How safe is safe enough? Chauncey Starr has proposed that economic data be used to reveal patterns of acceptable risk-benefit tradeoffs. The present study investigates an alternative technique, in which psychometric procedures were used to elicit quantitative judgments of percei...
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The validity of a set of subjective probability judgments can be assessed by examining two components of performance, calibration and resolution. The perfectly calibrated judge assigns probabilities so that, for all propositions assigned the same probability, the proportion true is equal to the probability assigned. For example, half of the proposi...
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Investigated how often people are wrong when they are certain that they know the answer to a question. Five studies with a total of 528 paid volunteers suggest that the answer is "too often." For a variety of general-knowledge questions, Ss first chose the most likely answer and then indicated their degree of certainty that the answer they had sele...
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A series of laboratory studies of insurance decision making shows that people buy more insurance against events having a moderately high probability of inflicting a relatively small loss than against low-probability, high-loss events. Two explanations are discussed, both contrary to traditional utility theory. One postulates a utility function conv...
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From the subjectivist point of view (de Finetti, 1937) a probability is a degree of belief in a proposition whose truth has not been ascertained. A probability expresses a purely internal state; there is no “right” or “correct” probability that resides somewhere “in reality” against which it can be compared. However, in many circumstances, it may b...
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When we feel certain about our factual knowledge, all too often we are wrong. This phenomenon, labeled 'the certainty illusion', is demonstrated in four experiments in which subjects (1) answered questions about a variety of topics and (2) indicated their degree of certainty about each answer. Subjects were wrong frequently on answers judged certai...
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Our world is so constructed that the physical and material benefits we most desire are sprinkled with the seeds of disaster. For example, the search for fertile fields often leads us to floodplains, while our attempt to make less fertile fields productive forces us to rely, at some risk, on fertilizers, pesticides, and fungicides. The wonder drugs...
Article
Trained 40 male university students to make numerical predictions of a criterion from a cue. Ss were trained on 2 separate cues that differed in validity. Later, the cues were presented together, simultaneously for 20 Ss and successively for the rest. Ss were asked to use both cues to predict the criterion. A regression model provided an adequate f...
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Extends previous studies (which used undergraduates in a laboratory setting) of the effects of response mode on information-processing strategies used in gambling decisions in a Las Vegas casino using a professional dealer as E and 44 casino patrons as Ss. As in the laboratory, the casino patrons used different strategies when choosing among pairs...
Article
The repetitive use of Bayes' theorem to aggregate data requires that the data be conditionally independent. The robustness of Bayesian analysis to violations of this assumption was tested by comparing Bayesian with other techniques in a practical prediction task.In classifying 861 MMPI profiles as either neurotic or psychotic, two variants of Bayes...
Article
In recent years there have been several hundred studies within the rather narrowly-defined topic of information utilization in judgment and decision making. Much of this work has been accomplished within two basic schools of research, which we have labeled the “regression” and the “Bayesian” approaches. Each has its characteristic tasks and charact...
Article
Conducted 3 experiments in which undergraduate males (N = 261) chose their preferred bet from pairs of bets and later bid for each bet separately. In each pair, 1 bet had a higher probability of winning (P bet); the other offered more to win ($bet). Bidding method (selling vs. buying) and payoff method (real-play vs. hourly wage) were varied. Resu... Article 73 undergraduates selected the one bet they would most prefer to play from each of 4 sets of bets. Within each set, the bets differed by as much as$1.60 in expected value (EV). In the 1st 2 sets, only the probability of winning and the amount to win were displayed. After Ss selected a bet from each of these sets the concept of EV was explained to...
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The variance of outcomes in a gamble is presumed to be an important determinant of the gamble's attractiveness. However, because the variance is confounded with the gamble's probabilities and payoffs, behaviors that have been interpreted in past studies as indicative of variance preferences are subject to alternative interpretations. 3 experiments...