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The Psychology of Judgment and Decision Making

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THE PSYCHOLOGY OF JUDGMENT AND DECISION MAKING offers a comprehensive introduction to the field with a strong focus on the social aspects of decision making processes. Winner of the prestigious William James Book Award, THE PSYCHOLOGY OF JUDGMENT AND DECISION MAKING is an informative and engaging introduction to the field written in a style that is equally accessible to the introductory psychology student, the lay person, or the professional. A unique feature of this volume is the Reader Survey which readers are to complete before beginning the book. The questions in the Reader Survey are drawn from many of the studies discussed throughout the book, allowing readers to compare their answers with the responses given by people in the original studies. This title is part of The McGraw-Hill Series in Social Psychology.

302 pages, Paperback

First published January 1, 1993

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About the author

Scott Plous

2 books17 followers
From Wikipedia:

Scott Plous, Ph.D., is a Professor of Psychology at the Department of Psychology of Wesleyan University. He is also a Faculty Associate of the Tufts University Center for Animals and Public Policy.

His areas of research include the psychology of prejudice and discrimination, decision making, and the human use of animals and the environment.

In 2001, he published a study that evaluated the reliability of Institutional Animal Care and Use Committees (IACUCs), and found that animal testing standards in the United States are widely inconsistent across different research institutions.

Plous has published two books, and numerous journal articles, on social issues, animal rights, and psychology.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 36 reviews
Profile Image for Trevor.
1,302 reviews22.1k followers
February 8, 2009
Let’s say you have been reading some of my recent reviews of Blink, Made to Stick and The Wisdom of Crowds and you’ve thought, “Were there but world enough and time…” Well, now there is. For the trivial investment of 260 pages you will find this book presents much of the research that was fascinating in those books in a quick and lively style. This really is a great book and one which will leave me thinking for quite some time – just as the research detailed in it has fascinated the authors of the books mentioned above.

There is virtually no fluff in this book – and yet it is still highly readable. I was particularly taken with the structure of the book. We start with a twelve page ‘reader survey’ – a series of questions to be answered which will, hopefully, help display any biases the reader might have prior to reading the book. I dutifully took the survey (and would also recommend it to anyone thinking of reading this book) – however, some of it was of limited worth. Knowing that Psychologists are basically cheats and frauds (even if in the name of science) tends to skew ones answers to questions. For example, when confronted with the question, “Which is a more likely cause of death in the United States – being killed by falling airplane parts or by a shark?” (remember this book was written before 9/11) I still went with shark attack as I thought I might have been played a sucker with a double blind. All the same, I would have happily taken alternative three (if there had been one) of – “Well, how the hell would I know?”

We then move from individual perception in the first chapters through to group and social judgements. The point of all this is to show how these can be skewed by various prejudices and biases.

If there is one thing this book does it definitely gets you to question to validity of psychological assessments. There is a damning study reported on page 119 .”…on clinical prediction, the judgements of 21 psychiatric staff members were compared with the weight of claim files in predicting readmission for psychiatric care. The weight of claim files was used as a crude measure of past hospitalisations. As it turned out, staff judgements were not significantly more accurate in predicting readmissions than were the folder weights.”

This was something I liked about this book. Often, I find, psychology annoys me because the results of their little tests are presented a bit like the end of a magic show. There is only one person in the room that knows how the trick was performed and everyone else is left to feel a little stupid. In this book the questioning of judgement and decision making is not just a questioning by those wearing white coats smugly (if not sneeringly) looking down on we lesser mortals – but rather a general concern for the possibility of objective judgement at all. The fact the book ends with a reference to Gödel’s Incompleteness Theorem certainly won my heart.

The book also ends with another disturbing test, where researchers were asked to test rats that had been breed to be either great at going through a maze or completely hopeless at going through a maze. The researchers were left to see how the rats went – and those told the rats were very clever at mazes find results that showed they were 50% better than the dumb rats. The only problem was that the rats were all just rats, put into one or other of the groups totally at random. What I like most about this experiment is that it is almost an exact duplicate of one in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy - where we think we are testing rats, but actually, the rats are testing us.

There are incredibly disturbing biases detailed in this book – a few of them you may have heard of before, others you probably have not. One of the most interesting was around who you sit facing can bias who you think is most influential in an argument. Another that I will think about much more is the idea that we are much more likely to think that other people do the things they do because what they do represents their disposition, whereas we do what we do because of the situation we are in. This distinction is fascinating. In my job I represent people who have gotten themselves into some sort of trouble. I had never released it (would not have been able to put it into so many words) that there is a fundamental bias during these meetings that whatever the person has ‘done’ is due to a bad character. In fact, often it may be due to circumstance. The current furore over Ginnie may be a case in point. I cannot excuse her plagiarism, but I also worry about the limits of righteous indignation. I find the whole thing unspeakably disheartening and terribly sad.

This also has my favourite psychological ‘test’. The one where a group of seminary students are asked to give a talk on the Good Samaritan, but are told that the talk is to be given somewhere else on the university. Along the way someone is clearly in distress and it turns out that people who are studying to become religious leaders and preparing to give a talk on one of the key examples of how someone should behave in such a circumstance, are not more likely to help the poor person in distress any more than the rest of us slobs. In fact, the main factor determining whether they stopped and helped was how much time they thought they had. Some even stepped over someone clearly in distress rather than be late to give a talk on the Good Samaritan.

At the start of the book the author talks about deception used in psychological experiments and states that the “American Psychological Association has established a set of ethical guidelines to protect subjects in the event deception is used.” This includes “that any use of deception be explained after the experiment is over.” Oh dear – imagine what it must have been like telling the seminary students they had stepped over a person in need to give a speech on the Good Samaritan! It is almost too embarrassing to contemplate.

I have come away from this book much more concerned than previously about the quality of my ability to judge situations, but also with a range of techniques that potentially will help reduce these biases. I’ve also come away with a reading list of references that I am looking forward to tracking down.

This really is a fascinating subject as this is also a wonderfully fascinating book.
Profile Image for Doc Opp.
448 reviews198 followers
May 1, 2007
Hands down the best introduction/overview of judgment and decision making that's out there. Although it was published in the 90's and so neglects a great deal of the more modern work, it gives a solid background of the classics, and prepares the reader for more advanced readings.

I do research in this area for a living, and often friends, family, or people who see my talks ask me what they can read to learn more about the topic - this is the one I always recommend. Accessible to all levels, but without dumbing down or simplifying the material to the point of inaccuracy (as so many science books do). A real gem.
Profile Image for Don.
25 reviews
October 14, 2009
Very good information on decision-making biases and errors that everybody makes, citing many many social psychology studies and showing some very surprising results. Selective perception, cognitive dissonance, memory and hindsight biases, context dependence, anchoring biases, and more categories of decision-making troubles are covered in a not-too technical and lightly entertaining way.
Profile Image for Mina.
1,013 reviews120 followers
June 11, 2018
Accessible and succinct, well-documented and well-reasoned, Plous' work is an engaging read for anyone interested in how and why we react the way we do, regardless of the reader's knowledge of psychology.
Profile Image for Tran Lam.
90 reviews4 followers
December 15, 2019
Cool read on human's heuristics, biases, and different theories on decision making. Plous describes the concepts and give examples from relevant research results. And he does so in a very accessible language (compared to the primary research papers).

Heuristics—simple, efficient rules people use to form judgments and make decisions. They usually work well but can lead to systematically irrational outcomes. These errors are called biases.

We can reduce bias with randomization, blind assessment, and control in research. We can reduce bias in real life with intentional framework and perspective taking (aka. thinking in others' shoes). We can calibrate our overconfidence by "stop to consider reasons why your judgments might be wrong."

Some key concepts on heuristics: selective perception, potent expectation, hostile media effect, cognitive dissonance, self-perception theory, contrast effect, recency effect, primacy effect, hallo effect, availability heuristic, representative heuristic, base rate, neglecting base rate, regression to the mean, power and limit of imagination, correlation, causalation, control, fundamental attribution error, egocentric bias, self-serving bias, positivity effect, belief in the law of small numbers, gambler's fallacy.

Some key concepts on decision making: expected utility theory, bounded rationality, prospect theory, compensatory strategies.

Some key concepts on social influences: social facilitation, social loafing, bystander intervention, social comparison theory, similarity, conformity, minority influence, groupthink, group polarization

70 reviews1 follower
March 26, 2019
An entertaining book but very clearly outdated and aimed at a US reader. For a more up to date take on biases in the human mind, check out "Thinking Fast and Slow".
Profile Image for Devin.
267 reviews
October 19, 2017
I wanted a quick and easy overview of biases in decision making, and that is exactly what I found in this book. My only comment is that it was published in 1993, and I wonder if there have been any new developments in this area since then?
Profile Image for Khaneen Zeyad.
9 reviews
April 14, 2023
Emmanuel Kunt's style of constructing ideas and concepts is known for its analytical approach, precision, and attention to detail. This style is particularly useful when reviewing a book like "The Psychology of Judgment and Decision Making," which is an in-depth examination of the psychological factors that influence decision-making.

Scott Plous does an excellent job of presenting complex psychological concepts in a way that is accessible to both experts and non-experts alike. The book is well-structured and takes the reader through the decision-making process step-by-step, from the initial perception of a problem to the final decision.

One of the strengths of the book is the way in which it explores the cognitive biases that can affect our decision-making. Plous shows how these biases can lead us to make decisions that are not in our best interests and offers practical advice on how to avoid them.

The book also highlights the importance of considering multiple perspectives when making decisions. Plous stresses the need to be aware of our own biases and to seek out alternative viewpoints to ensure that we are making the most informed decision possible.

Overall, "The Psychology of Judgment and Decision Making" is an essential read for anyone interested in understanding the factors that influence decision-making. Plous's clear and accessible writing style, combined with his thorough analysis of the topic, make this book a valuable resource for psychologists, economists, and anyone interested in making better decisions
153 reviews8 followers
August 31, 2020
Got this book whilst at uni

I was fascinated why people make decisions - before behavioural economics was a thing - and this was the closest thing to a book on it that i could find
620 reviews44 followers
November 30, 2009
Scientific rundown on decision making in lay terms

Making the right decisions is seldom easy. Situations change and choices confound. Faulty perceptions and biases can block clear thinking and undermine the ability to weigh alternatives rationally. As U.S. Supreme Court Justice Benjamin N. Cardozo explained 90 years ago, “We may try to see things as objectively as we please. Nonetheless, we can never see them with any eyes except our own.” This is the vexing paradox involved in making decisions: People who are in the process of deciding cannot always trust their own perceptions and thought processes. Psychologist Scott Plous, winner of numerous awards and honors, examines decision making in this rigorously scientific yet mostly accessible book, itself an award winner. getAbstract believes it will interest decision analysts, researchers, psychologists and strategists, as well as readers who want to know why they may make poor decisions and how to make better ones.
Profile Image for David.
436 reviews
July 6, 2009
This is a review of behavioral economics/social psychology. It's chock-full of important concepts regarding how we make judgments. As impressive as we are in the role of a multi-functioning mobile field computer, we also subject to some serious flaws, biases, decision-traps, and fatal heuristics. Being objective has never been so hard. This book serves as a schematic trouble-shooter for decision making, and has important implications at the business, political, and personal levels. This is an academic offering, yet presented more in a layman format. But it needs to be studied, not just read. And I can’t wait to continue the study adn read more on this topic.
Profile Image for CJ.
14 reviews6 followers
August 21, 2007
A very enjoyable and brisk 250 pages, I think that over time, I will also find this book very useful. With each chapter, this book takes a related family of "decision making biases" and describes the often humorous experiments that revealed them, talks about whether they are thought to be a problem in real life, and suggests strategies to mitigate their effects. The book also does a great job of explaining the very important idea of heuristics.

I recommend it to everyone because of its quality and expected utility in personal and professional life.
20 reviews4 followers
January 14, 2013
I found this book enjoyable to read and easily accessible (I myself have no formal education in psychology, only knowledge gleaned from flicking through my sister's textbooks. Plous has structured the content well, and each chapter finishes with a concluding section giving practical advice to aid the reader in avoiding traps and biases in judgement and decision making discussed in the book. A useful book to anybody involved in making important decisions or who has a passing interest in the subject.
Profile Image for Rebecca.
1,015 reviews
Want to read
October 26, 2010
I know this makes me an even bigger nerd, but a fellow accounting doctoral student friend recommended this book to me when I was at a conference a couple of weeks ago, and it just arrived today! She said it was very readable and interesting, as well as a good scientific overview of JDM (judgment and decision making) research in psychology. I am definitely looking forward to reading it for helpful theories to integrate into my dissertation.
Profile Image for Steven Coleman.
26 reviews1 follower
February 22, 2022
I read this book back in the days when I lived in Provo and I thought it served as an effective, compact manuel on how to guard against a variety of common biases even the most intelligent people are susceptible to. A similar book is The Art of Thinking Clearly by Rolf Dobelli. Two neat books to read and they most certainly have the ability to sharpen your critical thinking skills and prevent you from making costly mistakes.
Profile Image for Jorge Llaguno Sañudo.
15 reviews14 followers
December 26, 2012
A must read for everyone involved in the fields of psychology and marketing. It's narrative is clear, easy to follow and understand and provides an excelent framework for what nowadays cognitive science stands about perception, memory and the way we "think". Excelent for understanding leadership, team-building, risk handling, error making, etc.
Profile Image for Alina Seniuta.
55 reviews
December 28, 2015
Attempts to understand brainwork and - which is more - spot flaws in it using brainwork may look like relying on speed in chasing your own tail. Nonetheless, like there are places in universe where you can literally see your own back, there are ways to get the hang of the tricks your brain tricks you into.
537 reviews9 followers
March 12, 2012
1. Take Robert Cialdini's Influence
2. Do a find "you" replace with "decision maker"
3. Remove humor
=90% of this book (even the same examples!)
For the other 10% read up Peter Checkland's Systems Thinking, Systems Practice
Profile Image for C..
496 reviews182 followers
Shelved as 'sounds-interesting'
February 8, 2009
Sounds fantastic.
Profile Image for Luke Meehan.
183 reviews2 followers
September 16, 2013
Good senior undergraduate level introduction to the field.
Slightly dated, but still reliable given notable degree of cross-over with 'Thinking Fast and Slow'.
Profile Image for Steve.
26 reviews
May 15, 2016
Great look at a lot of factors that influence judgments. The section on attribution theory was especially enlightening.
2 reviews
April 22, 2014
Solid introduction to judgment and decision making. Focuses a bit too much on the social aspects, but that's understandable because it makes it more accessible to a broader audience.
Displaying 1 - 30 of 36 reviews

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