This post is based on a paper: “Intuition and analytic processes in probabilistic reasoning: The role of time pressure,” authored by Sarah Furlan, Franca Agnoli, and Valerie F. Reyna. Valerie Reyna is, of course, the primary creator of fuzzy-trace theory. Reyna’s papers tend to do a good job of summing up the state of the decision making art and fitting in her ideas.
The authors note that although there are many points of disagreement, theorists generally agree that there are heuristic processes (Type 1) that are fast, automatic, unconscious, and require low effort. Many adult judgment biases are considered a consequence of these fast heuristic responses, also called default responses, because they are the first responses that come to mind. Type 1 processes are a central feature of intuitive thinking, requiring little cognitive effort or control. In contrast, analytic (Type 2) processes are considered slow, conscious, deliberate, and effortful, and they place demands on central working memory resources. Furlan, Agnoli, and Reyna assert that Type 2 processes are thought to be related to individual differences in cognitive capacity and Type 1 processes are thought to be independent of cognitive ability, a position challenged by the research presented in their paper. I was surprised by the given that intuitive abilities were unrelated to overall intelligence and cognitive abilities as set up by typical dual process theories.
This post is based on the paper, “Fuzzy Trace Theory and Medical Decisions by Minors: Differences in Reasoning between Adolescents and Adults,” by Evan Wilhelms and Valerie Reyna that appeared in the June 2013, Journal of Medical Philosophy. This is an application of Fuzzy Trace Theory to the medical decision setting. The concept is more generally addressed in the first of three posts: FTT Meaning, Memory, and Development.
The mature minor exception allows adolescents under the age of 18 to make medical decisions and consent to procedures with equivalent authority of an adult. Although this was originally conceived to be applied in emergency situations in which parents are not available, it now according to Wilhelms and Reyna represents a blanket exception for those over the age of 14, so long as the benefits outweigh the risks and the adolescent is not otherwise deemed intellectually incapable. This expansion of rights has been used for easier access to abortion and contraceptives without parental consent, as well as the access to treatment for sexually transmitted infections, addictions, mental health problems and prenatal care. On occasion, this expanded legal standing of minors has been used to justify treatment refusal.
This post examines a couple of applications of Signal Detection Theory. Both are technically beyond me, but the similarities in the applications seem instructive. In both articles, SDT is used to evaluate questionnaire type screening tools. This is not a big surprise since it is where most of us first saw applications of statistical hypothesis testing and those false positives and false negatives. One paper looks at BRCA genetic risk screening and the other depression screening. In both cases, the screening instruments do not propose to be gold standards, but only introductory screening. It might be the type of screening that internal medicine doctors might do. In both cases, there is the idea that pure probability based instruments are ineffective, due to the biases that most people carry with them. One paper utilizes a fast and frugal decision tree(FFT) and the other three risk categories to provide the gist as in fuzzy trace theory(FTT). This gives us promotion of two similar acronyms: FFT and FTT.
In my 60s I can attest to my weakened ability to recall. It is ridiculous. This post looks at a paper that is written most prominently by the authors of fuzzy trace theory, Brainerd and Reyna. “Dual-Retrieval Models and Neurocognitive Impairment” appeared online on August 26, 2013 in the Journal of Experimental Psychology. (The post also uses an online source, The Cornell Chronicle, in an article dated September 5, 2013, entitled: “Breakthrough discerns normal memory loss from disease”, and was written by Karene Booker.) It comes up with some interesting conclusions.
Dan Kahan has an article in the October 2013, issue of Science, “A Risky Science Communication
Environment for Vaccines,” with a specific example of the HPV vaccine issues. Kahan has written a good article and one that may have not pleased several people. It fits together with my post Web 2.0 for Vaccination Decisions. Kahan makes the case for having scientifically based scientific risk communication strategies which is something that Betsch and Reyna et al try to do in “Opportunities and challenges of Web 2.0 for vaccination decisions.” Kahan may make a bigger case for just not being stupid and ignoring everything we already know about risk communication. He says quite well although indirectly that vaccination is really not a cultural cognition issue–yet, but we could make it one if we are not careful.
In his latest book, The World Until Yesterday, Jared Diamond looks at how several societies that have avoided technological advancements over long periods of recent time can teach us something. He calls them traditional societies. He indicates that you can look at these traditional societies as separate experiments of how a society develops and maybe by picking and choosing, you can find ways to enhance today’s first world societies. Dealing with risk and making decisions are part of that.
Ben Bernanke, chairman of the Federal Reserve, gave a news conference last week. Since then mortgage rates have jumped about half a percent along with 10 year treasury notes. The stock market is also down. Interestingly, Bernanke appeared to be trying to calm things down and did his best to provide the detail that analysts, investors, and the press wanted without really changing anything that he had said before. My first reaction is that when the Fed is asked for more clarity, they are really being asked for a secret signal for when the rats should get off the ship. So Bernanke, like the public health officials trying to communicate about vaccines, is a risk communicator.
On June 26, 2013, David Wessel wrote his Wall Street Journal column “Capital” about Bernanke’s efforts, and provided some interesting comments. Wessel indicated that maybe Bernanke did not “appreciate how hard it is to predict how markets will react to lengthy explanations.” Or perhaps markets were just ready to change course and “Mr Bernanke provided the moment.” Fuzzy trace theory seems to have a place here. Over the last few years, Bernanke’s gist has been that the fed among all possible actors would do whatever it could to help the economy and reduce unemployment. His lengthy explanation last week indicated that he had been thinking a lot about being ready to change this. Maybe that changed the gist from full speed ahead to easing off. The slightly more complicated message changed the gist.
Goldman Sachs boss Lloyd Blankfein whose economists interpreted the news conference as “a hawkish surprise” was quoted by Wessel as saying before the news conference: “Even if the Fed wants to change its rate slowly, at the first indication of change, the markets will change it quickly. If you want to handle that in the best way, you create a little bit more uncertainty in the market in the less aggressive, less jarring way.” We can hope that Bernanke is so confident about the economy that he thought that it was time to muddy up the gist and shake some of the “irrational exuberance” out of the markets. If the economy sputters, I hope that Bernanke can go back to a memorable positive gist to renew confidence about the Fed’s actions.
Blankfein makes an interesting point when he notes that at the first indication of change, the markets will change quickly. This is almost like a phase change in physics where ice melts. You do not have to change the temperature much to have a completely different situation on your hands. Public health vaccination communicators are concerned that this could happen with viral messages on the internet that undermine the advances made by vaccination programs.
This post looks at a paper that was put together at a conference on risk perception and risk communication regarding vaccination decisions in the age of social media. The paper: “Opportunities and challenges of Web 2.0 for vaccination decisions”, was published in the Journal Vaccine 30(2012)3727-3733. Two of the authors are Cornelia Betsch and Valerie Reyna. I think both of them are insightful.
Experts are important in helping to make decisions about health and safety so their risk perception and decision processes are important to understand. Reyna gives as examples: the emergency room physician deciding about the risk of a patient for a heart attack, the meteorologist deciding about tornado risk, and a lawyer evaluating potential damage awards to decide to settle or go to trial. Conventional wisdom is that experts apply precise analysis and numerical reasoning to achieve the best outcomes, while novices are more like to reason without analysis or numerical reasoning.
This is the second part of my look at fuzzy trace theory. Reyna first compares the predictions of prospect theory to fuzzy trace theory with respect to framing effects in adults. Framing effects describe shifts in risk preferences from risk aversion when prospects are described in terms of gains to risk seeking when the same prospects are described in terms of losses.
Kahneman and Tversky cumulative prospect theory predicts risk seeking for gains with small probabilities and risk aversion for losses with small probabilities. Reyna questions that numerical quantities or probabilities are necessary to observe framing effects.