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Decision-making is a critical skill in most workplaces but is especially important in higher-risk settings. It is normally triggered by some change of state in the work environment that is detected by ongoing situation awareness (discussed in Chapter 2). The basic steps of decision-making - situation assessment, then selecting a course of action and reviewing it - were outlined. Four methods of reaching a decision were described: recognition-primed, rule-based, choice and creative. The appropriateness of a given method depends on the level of expertise of the decision-maker and situational constraints. Decision-makers rarely work alone in safety-critical workplaces and the issue of team decision-making is considered in Chapter 5.

Key points

  • • Decision-making in operational environments is usually a two-stage process: situation assessment and selecting a course of action.
  • • There are different methods of selecting a course of action: recognition- primed, rule-based, choice or creative.
  • • Decision-making can be influenced by a number of factors, such as stress and fatigue.
  • • Training for decision-makers should focus on strengthening situation assessment skills, such as cue recognition, as well as practice in deciding what action to take.
  • • Decision training can be based on a number of methods, with increasing use of both low- and high-fidelity simulation.


Klein Associates:

Cognitive Engineering and decision-making technical Group of Human Factors and ergonomics Society (naturalistic decision-making): Society for Judgment and decision-making (study of normative, descriptive and prescriptive theories of decision-making):

Key texts

Cannon-Bowers, J. and Salas, E. (1998) (eds.) Making Decisions Under Stress. Washington: ApA Books.

Flin, R. (1996) Sitting in the Hot Seat: Leaders and Teams for Critical Incident management. Chichester: Wiley.

Flin, г., Salas, E., Strub, M. and Martin, L. (1997) (eds.) Decision-making under Stress. Aldershot: Ashgate.

Klein, G. (1998) Sources of Power. How People Make Decisions. Cambridge: MIT Press.

Klein, G. (2003) Intuition at Work. New York: Doubleday.

Montgomery, H., Lipshitz, г. and Brehmer, B. (2005) (eds.) How Professionals Make Decisions. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.

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