Decision Making for Risk Management: A Comparison of Graphical Methods for Presenting Quantitative Uncertainty

John A. Edwards, Frank J. Snyder, Pamela M. Allen, Kevin A. Makinson, David M. Hamby

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


Previous research has shown that people err when making decisions aided by probability information. Surprisingly, there has been little exploration into the accuracy of decisions made based on many commonly used probabilistic display methods. Two experiments examined the ability of a comprehensive set of such methods to effectively communicate critical information to a decision maker and influence confidence in decision making. The second experiment investigated the performance of these methods under time pressure, a situational factor known to exacerbate judgmental errors. Ten commonly used graphical display methods were randomly assigned to participants. Across eight scenarios in which a probabilistic outcome was described, participants were asked questions regarding graph interpretation (e.g., mean) and made behavioral choices (i.e., act; do not act) based on the provided information indicated that decision-maker accuracy differed by graphical method; error bars and boxplots led to greatest mean estimation and behavioral choice accuracy whereas complementary cumulative probability distribution functions were associated with the highest probability estimation accuracy. Under time pressure, participant performance decreased when making behavioral choices.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2055-2070
Number of pages16
JournalRisk Analysis
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 2012


  • Decision making
  • Graphical communication
  • Probability
  • Risk management
  • Uncertainty


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