Coping with uncertainty: A naturalistic decision-making analysis

Raanan Lipshitz, Orna Strauss

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This paper is concerned with three questions: How do decision makers conceptualize uncertainty? How do decision makers cope with uncertainty? Are there systematic relationships between different conceptualizations of uncertainty and different methods of coping? To answer these questions we analyzed 102 self-reports of decision-making under uncertainty with an inclusive method of classifying conceptualizations of uncertainty and coping mechanisms developed from the decision-making literature. The results showed that decision makers distinguished among three types of uncertainty: inadequate understanding, incomplete information, and undifferentiated alternatives. To these they applied five strategies of coping: reducing uncertainty, assumption-based reasoning, weighing pros and cons of competing alternatives, suppressing uncertainty, and forestalling. Inadequate understanding was primarily managed by reduction, incomplete information was primarily managed by assumption-based reasoning, and conflict among alternatives was primarily managed by weighing pros and cons. Based on these results and findings from previous studies of naturalistic decision-making we hypothesized a R.A.W.F.S. (Reduction, Assumption-based reasoning, Weighing pros and cons, Suppression, and Hedging) heuristic, which describes the strategies that decision makers apply to different types of uncertainty in naturalistic settings.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)149-163
Number of pages15
JournalOrganizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 1997

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Applied Psychology
  • Organizational Behavior and Human Resource Management


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