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Title: For better or for worse : field based studies into the language, mental representation and utility of heuristics used by experienced decision makers
Author: Houghton, Mark Andrew
ISNI:       0000 0004 9358 1245
Awarding Body: University of Leeds
Current Institution: University of Leeds
Date of Award: 2020
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Applying a grounded theory methodology and completing the first three stages of a full life cycle research program, this thesis examines judgment and decision-making in two contrasting contexts. It does so with a particular focus on language and somatic syntax and on exploring cognitive representations of real-world decision-making problems in response to the question raised in Hastie’s (2001) review of JDM research. In the first context, foreign exchange trading, characterised by risky decisions associated with intangible human constructs, i.e. money, errant emotions and behaviours were observed following a small run of losses, emotion and behaviours described as ‘irrational’ by those exhibiting them. Analysis of in-depth interviews led to the proposition that subconscious abstract (metaphor-based) mental simulations of profit and loss accounts were the cause of trader’s problematic emotions and behaviours. Having confirmed plausibility of this proposition via reference to diverse lab-based psychological literature; two questions were raised. Firstly, do traders routinely use other metaphors that may impact their performance? Secondly, what roles do mental simulations play in a less abstract context, where frequent risk decisions are made, but where the risk and incidents are tangible? Two studies were conducted to address these questions. In the first, a metaphor analysis of trader discourse confirmed the systematic use of metaphors which prior research has confirmed could be problematic regarding judgment and decision making. The second investigated the differential performance of safety leaders in a global oil and gas company. Applying the grounded theory approach from the first study, a theory of anticipated regret based safety performance was developed. Like the first study, the theory has a strong basis in embodied mental simulation, and was found to be supported by and connect diverse theories from within the psychological literature. In both decision making contexts patterns in the content and qualia of mental simulations was associated with biased perceptions of probability (higher) and increased in negative affect. In the trading context, these patterns led to negative outcomes and the desire to address both the biased sense of probability and reduce irrational negative affect. In contrast, these patterns led to improvements in safety performance with safety leaders seeking to increase the biased perception of probability and increase negative affect. The role of metaphor and embodied mental simulation and relationships between both played a central role in the development of propositions and theory within both studies, and it is therefore proposed that they, along with research in context, should play a greater role in future JDM research.
Supervisor: Maule, John A. ; Summers, Barbara Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available