You may be familiar with the Nobel-prize winning work of Amos Tversky on behavioral economics, which studied cognitive errors in human thinking that undermine economic models based on rational choice decision-making. Gary Klein’s work is equally important but it moves in the opposite direction — looking at the strengths and skills that humans bring to expert decision-making under stress in real-life conditions.
In their initial studies of fire-fighting, Klein and his team found that fire captains made intuitive decisions, based on years of experience, that allowed them to quickly recognize the nature of their situation. Was a floor about to collapse? Was a building about to erupt in a fireball of flame? Based on tiny cues — on what less experienced fire-fighters might find trivial — experienced fire captains called up entire situations in their minds in a form of complex pattern recognition. In seconds, they would quickly run through a range of mental simulations to determine the best course of action.
They found these same habits of mind at work in later studies of AWACS pilots, Marines, nurses, and doctors.
Klein’s stories and insights into how people learn to become experts, how experts make decisions, and why and how people fail to make the right expert decisions have broad application to the law. Learn to better understand your clients and witnesses — and more effectively question and attack witnesses on the other side.
So many cases involve split-second decision-making under conditions of uncertainty — reading Klein’s work will make you look at these situations with new eyes.