Principles of Naturalistic Decision Making

The purpose of these principles is to express what NDM stands for. These Principles express the goal of NDM, its subject matter, its methodology, and the testable theories that its proponents have discovered.

The Goal of NDM

The goal of NDM is to understand how people accomplish cognitive work and help them improve their performance.

The Subject Matter of NDM

  • Macrocognition describes how people adapt to complexity and perform proficiently in situations that are: ill-defined, uncertain, and dynamic; involve shifting goals; and can involve high stakes and time pressure.
    • Examples of macrocognitive processes include planning, sensemaking, problem solving, decision making, and coordination.
  • Adaptation and resilience require proficiency, especially expertise.
  • Expert-level performance requires enabling tools, processes, and organizational structures that are human-centered.

The Methodological Stance of NDM

  • NDM does not compare performers to idealized standards of cognitive performance or presume variables about human cognition that are formulated a priori.
  • Macrocognitive phenemona rely on features and functions of human cognition but are not reducible to them.
  • Macrocognitive phenomena take place in social and organizational contexts but are not completely explainable by them.
  • NDM researchers attempt to study macrocognitive phenomena from the perspective of performers working in context and on real problems.
  • NDM research is conducted in ways that are appropriately rigorous and systematic — not excessively rigorous so as to distort the phenomena, and not insufficiently rigorous so as to reduce confidence in the findings.
  • NDM primary methods include structured observation, cognitive interviewing, cognitive task analysis, and cognitive work analysis.

The Theories of NDM

  • Examples are Recognition Primed Decision Making, the Data/frame model of Sensemaking, and the Flexecution model of replanning.
  • In addition to showing how people achieve success at cognitive work, NDM research has revealed ways in which cognitive work is made difficult and can falter.
  • NDM regards humans and tools as interdependent.
    • The design of interdependent systems must necessarily investigate human performance at tasks that are intended to be improved by the introduction of such technologies. Therefore, tools such as computational technologies must be understandable, learnable, usable, and useful. They should amplify human abilities to know, perceive, and collaborate.
  • Developing expert-level performance requires enabling tools, processes and structures.
  • NDM regards expertise as achievable under particular circumstances within specific structures. To wit, people must be able to experience challenging tasks that naturally occur in the work, they need timely and accurate feedback on their performance, they benefit from mentoring, and they must be encouraged to achieve expertise by the organization(s) that govern their work.

Learn more about NDM in action

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