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Title: Cognition in crisis : decision inertia and failures to take action in multi-agency emergency response command teams
Author: Power, Nicola
ISNI:       0000 0004 5368 9745
Awarding Body: University of Liverpool
Current Institution: University of Liverpool
Date of Award: 2015
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This thesis defines and extends the psychological concept of ‘decision inertia’: the redundant deliberation of choice for no positive gain. The concept was developed following observation in the real-world that emergency incidents were most often criticised, not because of poor decision making, but because actions simply failed. It is argued, therefore, that the need to develop a psychological understanding to explain the relationship between stimulus and non-response is of conceptual importance. Rather than avoid a choice, decision inertia is crucially associated with a strong desire to take action yet, for reasons that will be discussed in this thesis, action fundamentally fails. A Naturalistic Decision Making (NDM) approach was followed to investigate decision making in the real-world context of emergency response environments. A mixed methods approach was used to qualitatively interview command level decision makers and then explore decision making in an empirical simulation setting. Two key findings emerged from the data: (i) the relationship between uncertainty and decision inertia appeared to be mediated by the anticipation of negative consequences associated with both action and inaction; and (ii) the context of extreme environments can exacerbate these effects by making (usually adaptive) cognitive processing styles (i.e. approach goals; cognitive flexibility) inappropriate. Implications with regards to both the conceptual importance of decision inertia and more practical advice for decision making in extreme emergency contexts is provided.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: BF Psychology