Overconfidence can lead to poor decisions, as gamblers should know.
A new Web-based game developed by researchers in the U.K. endeavors to help users quantify their level of confidence to improve decision making.
World of Uncertainty uses mathematics, statistics, critical thinking, knowledge management, and educational psychology and consists of a 10-question quiz to help people make better decisions. After answering a question on religion, politics, general knowledge, and so on, the player is asked to indicate how confident she is in her answers.
This latter metric determines the number of points awarded based on confidence level, in a manner similar to a gambling game. If the player is supremely confident in one of her answers, she can gamble all of her points on being right to double her money but receive virtually no points in the event that she were wrong. If she is unconfident and indicates as much, betting nothing, she would earn roughly the same amount of points regardless of whether she was right or wrong, as some points are awarded just for answering the question.
At the end of the quiz, the player receives a score for the number of questions she answered correctly and-much more importantly-how her knowledge on the subject related to her confidence level. “The more quizzes you will try, the more accurate you will get in estimating and expressing your confidence,” reads the message at the end of the ordeal.
Later iterations of the game may involve graphics or more action-packed game play.
“Whether the choices facing us are simple or complex, a greater awareness of uncertainty and of our own biases can improve the quality of our decision making. We believe there’s real potential for people to acquire that awareness through computer games,” says David Newman of Queen’s University Belfast, one of the Web site creators.
In a paper that the team submitted as part of its funding request, the researchers outline their goals for the project and describe why video games are ideal tests for human reactions to uncertainty. In the game environment, “the play is not limited to following a pre-written story…. A player may explore, gather evidence, estimate risks, make decisions, and see the consequences of these decisions.” Faced with immediate effects of over- or underconfidence, such as a high or low score, players gain the ability to grasp their propensity to commit errors of false self-assurance.
“Our vision is of a society transformed from one in which most people prefer simple stories, and avoid discussing uncertainty, to one where a large proportion of the population has the skills of exploring uncertain evidence and can estimate uncertainty,” the researchers write.