Monday, November 10, 2014

Summary of Findings: Intuition (4 out of 5 stars)

Note: This post represents the synthesis of the thoughts, procedures and experiences of others as represented in the 5 articles read in advance (see previous posts) and the discussion among the students and instructor during the Advanced Analytic Techniques class at Mercyhurst University in November 2014  regarding Intuitive Judgement  specifically. This technique was evaluated based on its overall validity, simplicity, flexibility and its ability to effectively use unstructured data.

Intuition is a rule-based method for making estimates based on cognitive shortcuts and subconscious instincts that are not explicitly stated, but nevertheless guide the estimate and subsequent action. Intuition is used to assess multiple alternatives without a structured analytic process to make estimates under the most dire time constraints. Intuition is the fastest estimative process available to analysts.

1. Intuition focuses on well-defined patterns, relationships and possibilities
2. Intuition involves factors such as expertise, processing styles, task structure, feedback, and time pressure in making decisions
3. Works well with well defined problems
4. Intuition allows people to take shortcuts (System 1 thinking)
5.Intuition is a fast process

1. Current evidence shows that intuition works best only in certain situations (limited time frame)
2. Unknown if cognitive biases either hurt or help forecasting accuracy
3. Unstructured or ambiguous questions hurt the effectiveness of using intuition
4. No documentation, as there is with a structured method, as to why the analysts pursued a certain path or came to a certain conclusion when intuition is used

Step by Step:
Note: This is reasonable description of the steps one would take in making an intuitive judgement.  It is derived from: Glockner, Andreas. (2007). Does intuition beat fast and frugal heuristics? A systematic empirical analysis.
  1. A Person must first activate all associated information within their memory
  1. A person then automatically reduces the number of inconsistencies between pieces of information
  2. A resulting decision is formed based on the connection between available information

Participants were given 3 minutes to answer 8 questions purposely intended to induce cognitive biases (form here).  The short time allowed was enforced to make participants rely on their System 1 intuition.  After completing the questions, participants were instructed to answer the same questions again, but without a time limit.  Participants could not look up answers to the questions.  System 2 thinking allows for a greater logical capacity.

Accuracy and logic improved in the System 2 round in every question.  These findings suggest that intuition may be a reliable method for accurate assessment but that an analyst that slows down and takes the time to consider the logical complexities inherent in a problem will likely produce a better answer.
What did we learn from the Intuition Exercise
Cognitive biases may not have the negative effects on intelligence analysis that the common-pejorative sense of the term implies.  Thinking slow may actually overcome many of the biases that could negatively affect assessment anyways.  More research is needed to prove how beneficial the use of structured analytic methods benefit intelligence analysis (i.e. “Bayesian increase accuracy over intuition by 7 percent.”).

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