The human element of decision making in systems engineers: A focus on optimism

Ricardo Valerdi, Craig Blackburn

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution

Abstract

Biases continue to be an important aspect of human judgment and decision making because they can lead to unfavorable outcomes. Optimism bias is one type of bias that is often overlooked because of its association with good health and positive outcomes. However, the existence of optimism bias in human judgment can be very damaging especially when it distorts a person's view of future events. In order to better understand optimism bias we explore the benefits and downsides of optimism as well as some empirically-based origins of both optimism and pessimism. This provides a backdrop for a methodology for quantifying optimism and pessimism using the Brier score developed for calibrating weather reporters and a discussion about how sports bookies make well-calibrated decisions. Results are explored from an optimism survey given to a cohort of eighty systems engineers, which ultimately portray the degree to which optimism bias influences decision making in large projects. Further exploration of the key differences in optimism across professions helps distinguish motivational factors and characteristics of well-calibrated professions. We also present results from a calibration exercise, designed to infer if such activities can be adopted to assist systems engineering estimation. Finally, we provide prescriptive advice on how individual decision makers can better manage their optimism and become more realistic. 2009 by Ricardo Valerdi & Craig Blackburn.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publication19th Annual International Symposium of the International Council on Systems Engineering (INCOSE 2009) in conjunction with the 3rd Asia-Pacific Conference on Systems Engineering APCOSE 2009
Pages986-1002
Number of pages17
StatePublished - Dec 1 2009
Externally publishedYes
Event19th Annual International Symposium of the International Council on Systems Engineering, INCOSE 2009 - , Singapore
Duration: Jul 20 2009Jul 23 2009

Publication series

Name19th Annual International Symposium of the International Council on Systems Engineering, INCOSE 2009
Volume2

Other

Other19th Annual International Symposium of the International Council on Systems Engineering, INCOSE 2009
CountrySingapore
Period7/20/097/23/09

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Hardware and Architecture
  • Information Systems
  • Control and Systems Engineering

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  • Cite this

    Valerdi, R., & Blackburn, C. (2009). The human element of decision making in systems engineers: A focus on optimism. In 19th Annual International Symposium of the International Council on Systems Engineering (INCOSE 2009) in conjunction with the 3rd Asia-Pacific Conference on Systems Engineering APCOSE 2009 (pp. 986-1002). (19th Annual International Symposium of the International Council on Systems Engineering, INCOSE 2009; Vol. 2).