Decision Theory and Analysis
Course Composition and Objectives
- Decision Theory: Define, recognize and put into practice the fundamentals of decision theory in everyday life as well as in the study and application of security and risk decisions.
- Explain the major theoretical frameworks of decision theory (which include but are not limited to: normative, descriptive & prescriptive) and be able to identify the characteristics of each in an applied setting
- Be able to systematically formulate, structure and/or frame a decision problem by employing the various decision support tools introduced during the course (e.g., decision tables, matrices, utility tables, weighted decision tables, and others).
- Be able to apply utility functions to solve expected utility & expected value problems (e.g., probability calculations, probability reward, expected value calculations, etc.).
- Describe and be able to apply the standard representation relating to individual decisions (e.g., alternatives (options), states of nature, outcomes, etc.).
- Describe and be able to apply the fundamentals of decision-making under uncertainty (e.g., paradoxes of uncertainty, measures of probability, uncertainty criteria, etc.).
- Explain the use and apply examples of Game Theory that demonstrate interaction strategies used by decision makers.
- Be able to explain the human decision-making process (or behaviors) in light of psychological decision theory (e.g., prospect theory, attribution theory, regret theory, etc.) and be able to describe the practical implications of their use.
- The Decision Environment: Derive, analyze and apply the elements that define the decision environment at the individual, group and organizational level, including the characteristics and strategies of decision-making at each level.
- Describe the characteristics of decision-making at the individual, group and organizational level (e.g., information, alternatives, criteria, goals, value, preference, quality & acceptance).
- Describe the various kinds of decisions at the individual, group and organizational level (e.g., decisions whether, decisions which, contingent decisions, etc.).
- Be able to identify and derive decision strategies at the individual, group and organizational level (e.g., optimizing, satisficing, maximax, maximin, Laplace criterion, Hurwicz criterion, etc.).
- Describe and be able to apply the standard representation relating to groups decisions (e.g., alternatives (options), states of nature, outcomes, etc.).
- The Nexus of Decision Theory and Decision Support: Apply the principles of critical thinking, recognize the effects of cognition and emotion on decision-making and understand the role of analytic judgment on the decision support/analytic process.
- Be able to adopt and apply the principles of critical thinking to problems introduced throughout the course in both oral and written presentations (e.g., open-mindedness, healthy skepticism, intellectual humility, free thinking and motivation).
- Recognize the critical thinking hindrances and biases that can emerge in the analytic process (e.g., basic human limitations, use of language, faulty logic or perception and psychological and sociological pitfalls).
- Understand the elements and role of analytic judgment in the decision-support and decision-making process (e.g., problem focus versus organizational focus, mental ruts, questioning assumptions, sensitivity analysis, etc.).
- Understand and be able to recognize the role of heuristics in decision-making and the analytic process.
- Understand the effects of cognition, emotion, intuition and unconscious thought on decision-making including the two types of risk evaluation (e.g., affect and cognition) as well as the basic physiological components of cognition.
- ) Understand the challenges to the classic decision theory (e.g., heuristics and rational choice theory; game theory versus cognition) and the types of risk evaluation conducted by the decision-maker (e.g., moral or deontological and consequentialist).
- Decision Support Methods & Applications: Make use of the decision support processes, products and tools introduced during the course and apply their use to problems and activities under examination. Note: These tools may vary from campus to campus and instructor to instructor.
- Demonstrate a basic working knowledge and be able to apply the decision support methods introduced during the course to a selected decision problem. These may include but are not limited to: Decision Trees, Influence Diagrams, Weighted Decision Tables, Analysis of Competing Hypothesis, Force Field Analysis, Key Assumptions Check, Neural Networks, etc.
- Students will be able to demonstrate competency in conducting research for a given security and risk decision problem.
- Students will demonstrate effective analytic writing and presentation skills in the preparation and delivery of written reports, analysis summaries and oral presentations.
- Bridging Theory & Practice: Apply their knowledge and skills in designated practical-application decision exercises and analytic decision problems (individual and team) in order to reinforce the tenets of Decision Theory and Analysis.
- Students will promote and engage in open analytic discourse to explore the characteristics and practices of decision theory and analysis to include critical thinking, argument analysis, key assumption check, the analysis of competing hypothesis and others as deemed necessary according to the problem under study.
- Students will be able to operate effectively in teams by demonstrating the qualities of self organization and governance; collegial engagement, accountability and synergy.
- Students engaged in a course scenario or problem-solving exercise will (as individuals or as part of a team) apply the tenets of decision theory in order to solve the problem under consideration
- Students engaged in a course scenario or problem-solving exercise will (as individuals or as part of a team) show proficiency in the application of the various decision-support aides, tools and processes introduced during the course while addressing decision problems of security and risk.
- Students will be able to facilitate discussions, and short duration instructional sessions that promote the use of decision theory, decision-making and/or decision-support as part of either an individual or group facilitated learning session.
- Instructors Choice: Instructors may choose topics and learning objectives that meet the spirit of the course as defined here. Instructors may choose to devote more time to the learning objectives listed above or to add additional, complementary objectives. Supplementary material and objectives should not overlap with the defined content of other courses in the curriculum.
SRA 231 is an introductory course on decision theory and analysis with a broad focus on the applied aspects of the theory of decisions relating to security and risk. Behavioral decision theories provide the theoretical core for the course. These theories draw on insights from a diverse set of disciplines, including cognitive and social psychology as well as economics, statistics and philosophy. The course introduces SRA majors to these theoretical models as well as other popular and evolving decision support systems. Students will explore and debate various decision theory and decision-support methods in order to gain a clear understanding of the strengths and weaknesses of each for use in the field of security and risk analysis. This course will maximize collaborative and action-learning experiences wherever appropriate. Emphasis will be placed on teamwork, group interaction and developing and practicing writing and speaking skills through application of the concepts that define the course.
The goal of the SRA program is to build future leaders in this critical major. We need students who can think quickly and analytically, of course, but we also need students who are aware of the spectrum of IST values: respect for technology, cultures, and the law. This course helps you to become familiar with the vocabulary and skills of the field.