Document


Title

Decision biases and heuristics among emergency managers: just like the public they manage for?
Document Type: Journal Article
Author(s): Patrick S. Roberts; Kris Wernstedt
Publication Year: 2019

Cataloging Information

Keyword(s):
  • behavioral public administration
  • decision making
  • emergency management
  • heuristics
  • prospect theory
Record Maintained By:
Record Last Modified: July 23, 2019
FRAMES Record Number: 58242

Description

We present evidence that emergency managers exhibit some of the same decision biases, sensitivity to framing, and heuristics found in studies of the general public, even when making decisions in their area of expertise. Our national survey of county-level emergency managers finds that managers appear more risk averse when the outcomes of actions are framed as gains than when equivalent outcomes are framed as losses, a finding that is consistent with prospect theory. We also find evidence that the perceived actions of emergency managers in neighboring jurisdictions affect the choices a manager makes. In addition, our managers show evidence of attribution bias, outcome bias, and difficulties processing numerical information, particularly probabilities compared to frequencies. Each of these departures from perfect rationality points to potential shortfalls in public managers’ decision making. We suggest opportunities to improve decision making through reframing problems, providing training in structured decision-making processes, and employing different choice architectures to nudge behavior in a beneficial direction.

Online Link(s):
Citation:
Roberts, Patrick S.; Wernstedt, Kris. 2019. Decision biases and heuristics among emergency managers: just like the public they manage for? The American Review of Public Administration 49(3):292-308.