Ward, Paul, Suss, Joel, Eccles, David W., Williams, A. Mark and Harris, Kevin R. (2011) Skill-based differences in option generation in a complex task: a verbal protocol analysis. Cognitive Processing, 12 (3). pp. 289-300. ISSN 1612-4782

In recent models of decision-making, cognitive scientists have examined the relationship between option generation and successful performance. These models suggest that those who are successful at decision-making generate few courses of action and typically choose the first, often best, option. Scientists working in the area of expert performance, on the other hand, have demonstrated that the ability to generate and prioritize task-relevant options during situation assessment is associated with successful performance. In the current study, we measured law enforcement officers’ performance and thinking in a simulated task environment to examine the option generation strategies used during decision-making in a complex domain. The number of options generated during assessment (i.e., making decisions about events in the environment) and intervention (i.e., making decisions about personal courses of action) phases of decision-making interact to produce a successful outcome. The data are explained with respect to the development of a situational representation and long-term working memory skills capable of supporting both option generation processes.

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