Our Research

Projection Point seeks to advance and boost our understanding of risk and decision making. Our research results have been presented within various academic settings including the "Workshop on Security and Human Behaviour" at Cambridge.

"Risk Intelligence,'" Handbook of Risk Theory, ed. Sabine Roesser (Berlin: Springer, 2011)

Type: Book Chapter

Author(s): Dylan Evans

Abstract:

Risk intelligence is the ability to estimate probabilities accurately. In this context, accuracy does not imply the existence of objective probabilities; on the contrary, risk intelligence presupposes a subjective interpretation of probability. Risk intelligence can be measured by calibration testing. This involves collecting many probability estimates of statements whose correct answer is known or will shortly be known to the experimenter, and plotting the proportion of correct answers against the subjective estimates. Between 1960 and 1980, psychologists measured the calibration of many specific groups, such as medics and weather forecasters, but did not gather extensive data on the calibration of the general public. This chapter presents new data from calibration tests of over 6,000 people of all ages and from a wide variety of countries. High risk intelligence is rare. Fifty years of research in the psychology of judgment and decision-making shows that most people are not very good at thinking clearly about risky choices. They often disregard probability entirely, and even when they do take probability into account, they make many errors when estimating it. However, there are some groups of people with unusually high levels of risk intelligence. Lessons can be drawn from these groups to develop new tools to enhance risk intelligence in others. First, such tools should accustom users to specifying probability estimates in numerical terms. Second, they should focus on a relatively narrow area of expertise, if possible. Thirdly, these tools should provide the user with prompt and well-defined feedback. Regular calibration testing might fulfill all three of these requirements, though training assessors by giving them feedback about their calibration has shown mixed results. More research is needed before we can reach a definitive verdict on the value of this method.

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Helping intelligence analysts make better predictions

Type: 2011 Workshop on Security and Human Behavior, Carnegie Mellon University

Author(s): Dylan Evans

Abstract:

On 4 February the New York Times reported that President Obama had criticized American spy agencies for failing to predict the spreading unrest in the Middle East. According to the report, the President was specifically critical of intelligence agencies for misjudging how quickly the unrest in Tunisia would lead to the downfall of the country’s authoritarian President, Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali. The criticism seems unfair. One American official familiar with classified intelligence assessments defended the analyses of Tunisia provided by the spy agencies. “Everyone recognized the demonstrations in Tunisia as serious,” said the official, speaking on the condition of anonymity because he was discussing classified intelligence reports. “What wasn’t clear even to President Ben Ali was that his security forces would quickly choose not to support him.” Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, echoed this observation during an appearance on The Daily Show; “It has taken not just us, but many people, by surprise,” he said.

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Living Dangerously

Type: Debate at "HowTheLightGetsIn", philosophy and music festival at Hay on Wye, 2011

Author(s): Douglas Murray, David Lammy, Dylan Evans. Isabel Hilton chairs.

Abstract:

From GM foods to stranger danger, fear it would seem lurks round every corner in modern life. Yet statistically we are safer than we have ever been. Is our fear justified and beneficial, or misguided and debilitating? Is it always right to seek safety, or is risk itself desirable?

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Risk intelligence: what is it, and how can we measure it?

Type: Human Psychology and Security workshop, 2010, University of Cambridge, 28-29 June 2010.

Author(s): Dylan Evans, Benjamin Jakobus

Abstract:

Dylan Evans discusses the online RQ test, http://www.projectionpoint.com, to measure risk intelligence (or RQ for risk quotient) – how aware people are of what they know and don’t know. Some professionals are good (such as US weather forecasters) – this depends on getting the right feedback. Medics are incredibly badly calibrated. He identifies four basic error patterns and can model them in terms of the subject’s “need for closure” or for certainty; others can need to avoid it getting an s-shaped graph. RQ is significantly higher in people who don’t believe in the paranormal; there are sex differences, such as that education improves RQ in men but not in women; and the technique can now be used by companies (e.g. bankers could ask dealers the likelihood that trades will lead to profits).

 


 

Risk intelligence: what is it, and how can we measure it?

Type: Paper presented at the SRA Europe conference, King's College London, 21-23 June 2010.

Author(s): Dylan Evans, Benjamin Jakobus

 

 


 

Risk intelligence: how expert gamblers can teach us all to make better decisions

Type: Talk given at Analog Devices Engineering Society, Limerick, 25 March 2010.

Author(s): Dylan Evans

Abstract:

As the current financial crisis demonstrates, many people are bad at thinking about risk. Expert gamblers, however, seem to be an exception. They are less prone to the cognitive biases that affect most of us and as a result, they can think about risk more clearly.

In this lecture, Dr. Dylan Evans will present his initial findings from recent interviews conducted with expert gamblers and outline some ways for thinking more wisely about risky choices.

 


 

Risk intelligence: what is it and how can we measure it?

Type: Invited talk at IBM Technology Campus, Dublin, 10 December 2009.

Author(s): Dylan Evans

 

 


 

Gamblers as role models: How expert gamblers can teach the rest of us to think more wisely about risky choices

Type: Paper presented at the Fourteenth International Conference on Gambling and Risk-Taking, Harrah's Lake Tahoe, 26 May 2009.

Author(s): Dylan Evans