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Saturday, November 19, 2022

Experts Making Complex Decisions

 Note also my mention of 'process mining' which can lead to and simplify useful decision making. 

How Experts Make Complex Decisions

By studying 200 million chess moves, researchers shed light on what gives players an advantage—and what trips them up.

BASED ON THE RESEARCH OF: Yuval Salant, Yevgenia Nayberg  in https://insight.kellogg.northwestern.edu 

Making a simple decision is akin to ordering off a restaurant menu: you evaluate the available options one by one and choose whichever alternative promises to make you happiest or deliver the greatest payoff. But when it comes to more complicated choices—say, shopping for a house, devising a business plan, or evaluating insurance policies—identifying the objective “best” option is impractical, and often impossible.

Choosing a health-insurance plan, for example, requires estimating the likelihood that you’ll need a biopsy or an appendectomy—a multilayered guessing game sure to be fraught with error. Selecting a marketing strategy can be similarly knotty, as every potential move opens the door to myriad reactions from customers and competitors, leading to millions of possible scenarios, any of which the decision-maker can only imperfectly foresee.

“There’s a different dimension to decision-making when the available alternatives are so complex that you can’t even figure out what a given option is worth to you,” says Jörg L. Spenkuch, an associate professor of managerial economics and decision sciences at the Kellogg School.

So what does it take to make a good choice when facing this kind of complexity? Does slowing down or having more experience help—or do these convoluted decisions simply leave everyone grasping at straws, regardless of their expertise or how long they spend pondering their options?

These questions have received limited attention from social scientists, says Yuval Salant, a professor of managerial economics and decision sciences. So he and Spenkuch recently teamed up to shed new light on the dynamics of decision-making in complicated scenarios. In a new study, they derive first-of-their-kind predictions about how people behave when making complex choices by using an unusual laboratory: the chess board. “Complexity and chess go hand-in-hand,” says Salant.

Using an immense dataset of more than 200 million moves from an online chess platform, the researchers draw novel conclusions about how chess players find their way through the fog of complexity. They find that slowing down helps everyone, but that masters of the game benefit considerably more from extra decision time than less-expert players. And counterintuitively, they show that adding a mediocre option into the mix can actually be worse than adding a bad one.

How Chess Players Make Decisions

Chess has several features that make it perfect for studying byzantine decisions.

First, the quality of each move can be objectively ranked. Unlike picking an insurance plan or a marketing strategy, where accurately measuring and ranking alternatives is possible only with a well-functioning crystal ball, certain chess moves can be clearly identified as part of a winning strategy: these moves will (if followed up by subsequent optimal play) guarantee a win, no matter what one’s opponent does. Other moves can similarly guarantee a draw or would result in a loss.

(It may seem bizarre that the famously cerebral game can be boiled down to predefined winning and losing moves. But this was proved more than a century ago by the German mathematician Ernst Zermelo. “He basically said, ‘Chess isn’t an interesting game,’” Salant explains, “‘because either white has a winning strategy no matter what black is doing, or black has a winning strategy no matter what white is doing, or both of them can force a draw.’”)  ... ' 

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