Approaches to displaying information to assist decisions under uncertainty

M. E. Kreye, Y. M. Goh, L. B. Newnes, P. Goodwin

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The estimation of the costs of a product or project and the decisions based on these forecasts are subject to much uncertainty relating to factors like unknown future developments. This has been addressed repeatedly in research studies focusing on different aspects of uncertainty; unfortunately, this interest has not yet been adopted in practice. One reason can be found in the inadequate representation of uncertainty. This paper introduces an experiment, which engages different approaches to displaying cost forecasting information to gauge the consideration of uncertainty in the subsequent decision-making process. Three different approaches of displaying cost-forecasting information including the uncertainty involved in the data were tested, namely a three point trend forecast, a bar chart, and a FAN-diagram. Furthermore, the effects of using different levels of contextual information about the decision problem were examined. The results show that decision makers tend to simplify the level of uncertainty from a possible range of future outcomes to the limited form of a point estimate. Furthermore, the contextual information made the participants more aware of uncertainty. In addition, the fan-diagram prompted 75.0% of the participants to consider uncertainty even if they had not used this type of diagram before; it was therefore identified as the most suitable method of graphical information display for encouraging decision makers to consider the uncertainty in cost forecasting.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)682-692
Number of pages11
JournalOmega-International Journal of Management Science
Issue number6
Early online date4 Oct 2011
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2012


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