Glossary of Terms and Definitions
Looking to better understand some of the key terms used in Decision Education and Decision Science? We hope the following list helps.
being open to seeking new evidence that deepens, refines, or recalibrates our beliefs. A willingness to question our first assumptions and accept that initial judgments may be flawed, or limited by incomplete information.
placing too much emphasis on the first piece of information we receive, regardless of how relevant it is.
creating an incorrect picture of reality in our mind by overly accessing examples of events that are highly memorable or emotionally charged.
taking the outside view of our own decision, enabling a more objective and less emotional perspective. (also known as: the Outside View)
being influenced by what others are doing and saying, and joining in, rather than thinking or behaving on our own.
a number that represents the prevalence of similar characteristics in a population. It provides information on how likely an event might be.
Base Rate Neglect:
ignoring available base rate information that could help us make solid predictions, and instead over- or underestimating what we think will happen.
the study of human behavior through the use of systematic experimentation and observation.
Bias Blind Spot:
noticing the biases in others’ reasoning, but failing to pick up on our own such biases.
clarifying what matters to us, and determining what we really want out of a specific decision.
errors in thinking or judgment that happen when we are processing and interpreting information. They often lead to distorted views, illogical interpretations, or irrational beliefs.
the tendency of the human brain to solve problems in the simplest or most straightforward way, rather than thinking more deliberately to improve reasoning. The brain creates shortcuts, or heuristics, to conserve energy.
seeking out, or looking more favorably on, information that supports what we already think, and rejecting or ignoring information that refutes what we think. We confirm our beliefs at the risk of failing to be objective about facts.
a systematic and quantitative approach to addressing and evaluating the important choices that we face.
the inevitable revisiting of decisions that were not well considered or understood in the first place.
the K-12 teaching and learning of skillful judgment formation and decision-making. It is comprised of four domains: Thinking Probabilistically, Valuing and Applying Rationality, Structuring Decisions, and Recognizing and Resisting Cognitive Biases.
Decision Education Domains:
the four categories of Decision Education skills that provide the foundation for students to make decisions proactively and rationally. They include: Thinking Probabilistically; Valuing and Applying Rationality; Structuring Decisions; and Recognizing and Resisting Cognitive Biases.
the boundary, or parameters, that provide clarity about what is, and is not, being decided. (see also: framing)
a person or group considering their values, options and likelihoods regarding a specific decision. OR: the person who has the final authority or ownership over a particular decision.
a reflective and deliberate process that guides us through distinct steps to drive better decisions. Such a process helps us understand our values, develop options for a course of action, analyze the options probabilistically and reflect upon a choice made for a specific decision.
a personal record of our more significant decisions. It enables us to record and reflect on key elements of the decisions we make, with the aim of improving our decision-making.
a state in which we cannot seem to make a decision because every option available presents a challenge, or an unresolvable tradeoff between options.
a multi-disciplinary approach to improving decision-making. It is grounded in analytics, and integrates cognitive and behavioral sciences, with data and risk analysis.
mental techniques, tools, habits, and dispositions that can improve judgment and the quality of decision-making.
thinking errors that diminish the quality of our decision-making. (see also: cognitive biases)
a diagram or chart that helps us think probabilistically about the outcomes of our decisions. It is particularly useful for highly complex decisions.
habits of mind, attitudes, or cognitive tendencies that support skillful decision-making.
a key part of the decision-making process that calls for us to express how the option we chose is the one that best fits our values, and will provide the greatest opportunity for success or happiness.
a mistaken belief, or the use of invalid or otherwise faulty reasoning.
Fast and Slow Thinking:
terms coined by Nobel Laureate Daniel Kahneman to describe the two ways the brain manages decisions and judgment formation. Fast Thinking is used for judgments or decisions we are barely aware we’re making. This thinking is quick, unconscious, intuitive, and automatic. Slow Thinking is used for consciously forming judgments and making decisions. This thinking is logical, evaluative, deliberative, and effortful. (see also: System 1 & 2 Thinking)
the technique of using current and historical data to make more informed estimates in determining a future outcome or trends.
a key part of the decision-making process that calls for us to create a boundary around or express what we are, and are not, making a decision about.
being influenced not by information or data, but by how the information is described or presented (framed).
Fundamental Attribution Error:
believing our own actions are the result of circumstances, but attributing the actions of others to factors of personality.
incorrectly ascribing order or patterns to random events, like, for example, believing that what happened previously matters to the outcome.
the analysis of strategies for dealing with competitive situations where the outcome of a participant’s choice of action depends on the actions of other participants.
one part of a decision-making process. Requires us to seek out credible, current, and balanced sources to acquire key information that may be relevant to an important decision.
a key part of the decision-making process that calls for us to develop multiple appealing options from which to choose. These options should be under our control, and significantly different from one another.
thinking or making decisions as a group in a way that discourages independent thinking and creativity, or individual responsibility.
a neurological progression that governs any habit. The loop consists of four elements: a cue, a craving, a response, and a reward. Understanding these elements can help in understanding how to change bad habits or form better ones.
causes people to be biased in their judgments by transferring their feelings about one attribute of something to other, unrelated, attributes.
mental shortcuts that our brains use to reduce complexity in judgment and choice. This differs from cognitive biases, which are the systematic errors in our thinking that sometimes occur as a result of heuristics.
believing that past events were more predictable than they really were. Saying things like “I just knew that would happen,” and believing it.
making an assumption about someone or something based on the “group” we see them being a part of or excluded from.
remaining open to new information, and exhibiting a willingness to learn from the experience or expertise of others. Demonstrating a mindset that entertains the possibility of being wrong.
the capacity and process to discern what is true, how the world works, and what to believe about it.
Loss Aversion Bias:
placing greater value on avoiding losses than on attaining potential equivalent gains. Nobel Laureate and cognitive bias expert Daniel Kahneman says that the pain of losing is psychologically twice as powerful as the pleasure of winning the same amount.
assigning subjective value to our money depending upon how we earned it, how we intend to use it, and how it makes us feel.
awareness and understanding of our own thought processes.
the ability to understand and work with numbers.
the likelihood of an event occurring in a situation that is clearly defined, with parameters that are known with certainty. An example would be a randomly flipped “fair” coin.
having more confidence in our own abilities, skills, and character than is warranted. Or overestimating the likelihood of things we hope will happen.
instinctively simplifying things to the extreme—it’s black or white, good or bad, always or never—with no room for gray areas or other possibilities in between. (also known as: black-and-white thinking)
a tool to help learn about a past incident, decision, or project. It typically involves a candid, blame-free session to review what went well, what was not as effective, or what contributed to total failure. The objective is to improve, moving forward.
thinking about the likelihood that each outcome will happen in terms of probability. And then determining how much you care about each of the outcomes.
a tool that helps us figure out what could go wrong before it actually does. We use premortems to consider possible factors that could contribute to the failure of a decision or project. It enables us to be proactive by gathering more information, switching strategy, looking for other options, or changing the decision frame entirely.
focusing on immediate gratification rather than having the patience to wait for bigger future rewards. (also known as: temporal discounting)
consistently making estimations, considering likelihoods, and assessing confidence about information regarding the past, present, and future. Probabilistic thinking recognizes the nature of uncertainty in the world, helping resist overconfidence and other cognitive biases.
reacting to the emotions of the possibility and not the statistical probability that an event will actually happen. With this cognitive bias, small risks can be exaggerated, and large risks can be ignored.
the concept that people assess their losses and gains disproportionately. (see also: Loss Aversion Bias)
adopting goals that are aligned with our values, forming beliefs based on evidence, making decisions consistent with our beliefs and values, and taking action to pursue life goals using the best means possible.
taking time to consider our previous thinking during a decision-making process, and refining our process based on what we realize or discover. (see also: metacognition)
the tendency to avoid making a decision as a result of fearing that the outcome will produce regret, or choosing an option that eliminates or minimizes the risk of regret.
when deciding how likely something is, we tend to make this judgment based on how closely the event or object matches our already existing mental models.
a logical fallacy where we erroneously evaluate the quality of our decisions based on the outcome they achieve, rather than on the quality of the process used to make them. We judge a decision process as good if the outcome was good or judge a decision as poor if the outcome was undesirable.
refers to the number of participants or observations included in a study.
Sample Size Neglect:
occurs when people make false conclusions by failing to consider the sample size of the data in question.
conscious knowledge and understanding of one’s own feelings, thought processes, motives, and behaviors.
managing our actions and making decisions on our own, independent of prescribed pathways.
the ability to monitor and manage our emotions, thoughts, and behaviors in ways that promote healthy results in learning, relationships, and achieving our goals.
calculating the likelihood that an event occurs based on personal opinion. This type of probability is not data-driven.
remaining committed to something we have already invested time, effort, or money in, even if the ongoing costs outweigh the benefits.
System 1 & 2 Thinking:
the System 1 function of the brain (Fast Thinking), is used for decisions made throughout the day that we barely register. This thinking is fast, unconscious, intuitive, and automatic. The System 2 function of the brain (Slow Thinking) is used for consciously processing and making decisions. This thinking is rational, logical, evaluative, deliberative, and effortful.
combining something we want to do with something we should be doing. Example: Watching ESPN only when we are at the gym working out.
how far into the future we look when evaluating the consequences of a proposed action.
rejecting one option and its potential outcomes by choosing another option.
a mindset that leads us to try to understand the world as it actually is, rather than as we might wish it to be, by asking probing questions and pursuing evidence even when it challenges our beliefs.
the complex emotional and cognitive response experienced in situations involving chance, insufficient information, or inadequate analysis.
a decision-making tool that identifies criteria, weighs their importance, and then rates how well each option satisfies that criteria.
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