Book Review: The Psychology of Judgment and Decision Making

From: Gordon Worley (
Date: Tue Feb 03 2004 - 16:27:30 MST

Title: The Psychology of Judgment and Decision Making
Author: Scott Plous
ISBN: 0-07-050477-6

/The Psychology of Judgment and Decision Making/ (PJDM) is a book
written for use as an introductory text to the study of human judgment
and decision making. Although aimed at college students, the book
should be accessible to anyone who has been human for at least several
years (if you are not a human but know humans or, worse yet, know *of*
humans, you'll probably get bored of their silly antics).

Unlike classic texts in this field, such as /Judgment under
uncertainty: Heuristics and biases/, this book is light on details of
experiments and heavy on explanations. Very rarely PJDM gets into
trouble because the explanations seem to contradict established
experimental results reported elsewhere (sorry, I didn't make a note
when I saw it so I can't tell you where this happens in the book), but
the reasons for this are not clear. Otherwise, the book is a great way
to get into the field, especially for laymen who are unable to decipher
more technical writing.

The book's primary failure is to address the origin of human deviations
from normative models discussed. There's the occasional offhand remark
that people probably have heuristics and biases that don't conform to,
say, Bayes's Theorem, but I don't recall any mention of evolution or
other causes in the book. Although this is something I expect from
volumes of technical literature because papers try to be modular and
avoid overstepping their grounds, I hoped that an introductory text
would at least mention some further reading on the subject.

Here's a list of the book's sections to give you an idea of topics

   Section I: Perception, Memory, and Context
   Section II: How Questions Affect Answers
   Section III: Models of Decision Making
   Section IV: Heuristics and Biases
   Section V: The Social Side of Judgment and Decision Making
   Section VI: Common Traps

Each of these sections is relatively short, with no chapter longer than
15 or 20 pages. The writing is engaging and draws you along, bit by
bit. If you get tired, there are frequent section breaks, so this book
can easily be read over many short sittings. I highly recommend PJDM
to anyone who is interested in human judgment and decision making but
unable to obtain or decipher more technical works.

-- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- --
                Gordon Worley
             Phone: 352-875-5808
e-mail: PGP: 0xBBD3B003

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