Uncertainty and decision making

Volcanic crisis scenarios

Emma Doyle, John McClure, Douglas Paton, David Johnston

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

5 Downloads (Pure)

Abstract

The impact of uncertainty on Disaster Risk Reduction decision-making has become a pressing issue for debate over recent years. How do key officials interpret and accommodate uncertainty in science advice, forecasts and warnings into their decision making? Volcanic eruptions present a particularly uncertain hazard environment, and to accommodate this scientists utilize probabilistic techniques to inform decision-making. However, the interpretation of probabilities is influenced by their framing. We investigate how verbal or numerical probabilities affect decisions to evacuate a hypothetical town, and reasons given for that decision, based upon a volcanic eruption forecast. We find fewer evacuations for verbal terms than for equivalent numerical terms, and that the former is viewed as more ambiguous. This difference is greater for scientists, which we suggest is due to their greater familiarity with numerical probabilities and a belief that they are more certain. We also find that many participants have a poor understanding of the relationship between probability and time window stated, resulting in an incorrect assessment of overall likelihood and more evacuations for the lower likelihood version of two scenarios. Further, we find that career sector (scientist or non-scientist) influences evacuation decisions, with scientists tending to reduce the uncertainty by focusing on the quality and volume of information provided, while non-scientists tended to either acknowledge or suppress the uncertainty, focusing on actions to take. These findings demonstrate the importance of identifying communication strategies that mitigate different perceptions of forecasts, to both enhance end-user decision making and to prevent premature, delayed, or unnecessary actions.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)75-101
Number of pages27
JournalInternational Journal of Disaster Risk Reduction
Volume10
Issue numberPart A
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2014
Externally publishedYes

Fingerprint

Decision making
decision making
uncertainty
scenario
volcanic eruption
familiarity
Disasters
disaster
Hazards
town
career
hazard
communication
interpretation
Uncertainty
Communication
science
forecast
decision

Cite this

Doyle, Emma ; McClure, John ; Paton, Douglas ; Johnston, David. / Uncertainty and decision making : Volcanic crisis scenarios. In: International Journal of Disaster Risk Reduction. 2014 ; Vol. 10, No. Part A. pp. 75-101.
@article{3f11d5702d734dab8f9dd2fcdc2be8cc,
title = "Uncertainty and decision making: Volcanic crisis scenarios",
abstract = "The impact of uncertainty on Disaster Risk Reduction decision-making has become a pressing issue for debate over recent years. How do key officials interpret and accommodate uncertainty in science advice, forecasts and warnings into their decision making? Volcanic eruptions present a particularly uncertain hazard environment, and to accommodate this scientists utilize probabilistic techniques to inform decision-making. However, the interpretation of probabilities is influenced by their framing. We investigate how verbal or numerical probabilities affect decisions to evacuate a hypothetical town, and reasons given for that decision, based upon a volcanic eruption forecast. We find fewer evacuations for verbal terms than for equivalent numerical terms, and that the former is viewed as more ambiguous. This difference is greater for scientists, which we suggest is due to their greater familiarity with numerical probabilities and a belief that they are more certain. We also find that many participants have a poor understanding of the relationship between probability and time window stated, resulting in an incorrect assessment of overall likelihood and more evacuations for the lower likelihood version of two scenarios. Further, we find that career sector (scientist or non-scientist) influences evacuation decisions, with scientists tending to reduce the uncertainty by focusing on the quality and volume of information provided, while non-scientists tended to either acknowledge or suppress the uncertainty, focusing on actions to take. These findings demonstrate the importance of identifying communication strategies that mitigate different perceptions of forecasts, to both enhance end-user decision making and to prevent premature, delayed, or unnecessary actions.",
author = "Emma Doyle and John McClure and Douglas Paton and David Johnston",
year = "2014",
month = "12",
doi = "10.1016/j.ijdrr.2014.07.006",
language = "English",
volume = "10",
pages = "75--101",
journal = "International Journal of Disaster Risk Reduction",
issn = "2212-4209",
publisher = "Elsevier",
number = "Part A",

}

Uncertainty and decision making : Volcanic crisis scenarios. / Doyle, Emma; McClure, John; Paton, Douglas; Johnston, David.

In: International Journal of Disaster Risk Reduction, Vol. 10, No. Part A, 12.2014, p. 75-101.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

TY - JOUR

T1 - Uncertainty and decision making

T2 - Volcanic crisis scenarios

AU - Doyle, Emma

AU - McClure, John

AU - Paton, Douglas

AU - Johnston, David

PY - 2014/12

Y1 - 2014/12

N2 - The impact of uncertainty on Disaster Risk Reduction decision-making has become a pressing issue for debate over recent years. How do key officials interpret and accommodate uncertainty in science advice, forecasts and warnings into their decision making? Volcanic eruptions present a particularly uncertain hazard environment, and to accommodate this scientists utilize probabilistic techniques to inform decision-making. However, the interpretation of probabilities is influenced by their framing. We investigate how verbal or numerical probabilities affect decisions to evacuate a hypothetical town, and reasons given for that decision, based upon a volcanic eruption forecast. We find fewer evacuations for verbal terms than for equivalent numerical terms, and that the former is viewed as more ambiguous. This difference is greater for scientists, which we suggest is due to their greater familiarity with numerical probabilities and a belief that they are more certain. We also find that many participants have a poor understanding of the relationship between probability and time window stated, resulting in an incorrect assessment of overall likelihood and more evacuations for the lower likelihood version of two scenarios. Further, we find that career sector (scientist or non-scientist) influences evacuation decisions, with scientists tending to reduce the uncertainty by focusing on the quality and volume of information provided, while non-scientists tended to either acknowledge or suppress the uncertainty, focusing on actions to take. These findings demonstrate the importance of identifying communication strategies that mitigate different perceptions of forecasts, to both enhance end-user decision making and to prevent premature, delayed, or unnecessary actions.

AB - The impact of uncertainty on Disaster Risk Reduction decision-making has become a pressing issue for debate over recent years. How do key officials interpret and accommodate uncertainty in science advice, forecasts and warnings into their decision making? Volcanic eruptions present a particularly uncertain hazard environment, and to accommodate this scientists utilize probabilistic techniques to inform decision-making. However, the interpretation of probabilities is influenced by their framing. We investigate how verbal or numerical probabilities affect decisions to evacuate a hypothetical town, and reasons given for that decision, based upon a volcanic eruption forecast. We find fewer evacuations for verbal terms than for equivalent numerical terms, and that the former is viewed as more ambiguous. This difference is greater for scientists, which we suggest is due to their greater familiarity with numerical probabilities and a belief that they are more certain. We also find that many participants have a poor understanding of the relationship between probability and time window stated, resulting in an incorrect assessment of overall likelihood and more evacuations for the lower likelihood version of two scenarios. Further, we find that career sector (scientist or non-scientist) influences evacuation decisions, with scientists tending to reduce the uncertainty by focusing on the quality and volume of information provided, while non-scientists tended to either acknowledge or suppress the uncertainty, focusing on actions to take. These findings demonstrate the importance of identifying communication strategies that mitigate different perceptions of forecasts, to both enhance end-user decision making and to prevent premature, delayed, or unnecessary actions.

UR - http://www.scopus.com/inward/record.url?scp=84906730392&partnerID=8YFLogxK

U2 - 10.1016/j.ijdrr.2014.07.006

DO - 10.1016/j.ijdrr.2014.07.006

M3 - Article

VL - 10

SP - 75

EP - 101

JO - International Journal of Disaster Risk Reduction

JF - International Journal of Disaster Risk Reduction

SN - 2212-4209

IS - Part A

ER -