non-expert decison making: perils of democracy…

When making an individual decision, or whether voting as a group, the ‘strength’ of one’s conviction on a topic should be modified by one’s expertise before coming to a final resolution.  All decisions have pros and cons, all of different importance and ramifications. The following shows mathematically a simple example of the interplay between ‘expertise’ and conviction with possible ‘wrong’ resolutions.  In small groups, a more rigorous decision resolution method than a simple raising of hands would be useful for better defining the problem and recording the strength of convictions for future reference and analysis.

The first chart shows a normal vote that disregards how strongly each individual feels about the subject at hand.

The second chart shows what happens if you gives the ‘experts’ a stronger voice (their votes count twice as much as everyone else’s), and weigh everyone’s vote by the strength of their conviction (opinion) on the subject at hand.  This method gives experts the strongest ability to affect the outcome of the voting.

The third chart gives everyone an equal vote, but those with the strongest opinions will be able to effect the vote more than those who don’t by indicating a stronger conviction (closer to 0 or 100).  Experts tend to have stronger opinions and this gives them the chance to express that view.  This method does not let the expert influence the outcome as much as in the second chart, but it could be considered more fair since anyone (non-expert included) could rank his own conviction toward 0 or 100; but, hopefully, those who know little about the topic at hand would rate their own conviction closer to the median of 50.

It’s possible to use any of the methods above, or all of them depending on the circumstances and matter being discussed.

non-expert decision making Click on the photo or URL for a larger view.

About Brian D Gregory MD, MBA

Board Certified Anesthesiologist for 30 years. TOC design and implement for 30 years. MBA from U of Georgia '90: Finance, Data Management, Risk Management. Practiced in multiple US states and Saudi Arabia at KFSH&RC and KFMC Taught residents in two locations. Worked with CRNAs for 20 years.
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