Grappling with Uncertainty in Environments Signaling Spurious Experiential Decisions (GUESSED)

Making sound decisions under uncertainty in a rapidly changing world is more important than ever. The GUESSED project uses avalanche terrain as a test-bed for developing theories and tools – which will have an impact far beyond the snow covered mountains in the Nordic Countries. The ongoing covid-19 pandemic demonstrates that crucial decisions with far-reaching consequences often must be made with limited information and considerable time constraints. To postpone decisions until sufficient information is available (if ever) and analyzed from all perspectives can have catastrophic consequences.

Many real life situations are complex where people have only partial knowledge of the consequences of their actions and how likely these consequences are to materialize. The GUESSED project aims to reduce the loss of life from decision errors by improving the theory and practice of decision making in uncertain hazardous environments of non-representative feedback. In avalanche terrain people, in different constellations and with different levels of skill, have to make decisions with limited amounts of information under time restrictions. They navigate in a particularly vexing environment where the key hazard element–snow–is known to change rapidly over space and time. Even with robust data on the physical properties of the snowpack, uncertainty remains. This makes avalanche terrain the ideal test-bed for investigating questions with far broader implication.

For example; How can a decision process be structured to enable novices to make accurate and precise decisions with limited cognitive burden? Or, what affects a group decision, and how can the decision process for a  group be structured in order to enable the wisdom of the crowd. People learn far better if an action is followed by an immediate consequence, but how can we make sure that people learn in an environment where feedback is either absent or the consequences may kill you?

The answer to these questions may save lives – far beyond the high North.