Coursera and Group vs Individual Decisionmaking

Prof. Dan Ariely

I have been taking Coursera’s  Irrational Behaviour taught by Duke Professor Dan Ariely. The course concentrates on individual decision making and how decision methods depart from traditional rational  and economic utility models. There are compelling experimental and neuroscience proofs that a)individuals use different model or methods of decision making depending on circumstances[ the Kahneman and Tversky fast versus slow methods] and b)many, often non-intuitive factors such as loss aversion, effort ownership, and complexity avoidance among others profoundly shape our decisions in sharp departure from the expected rational models.

The course has been self instructive. 

For example, one of the topics of discussion that has arisen in the many forums, hangouts+meetings and group discussions provided in the course has been the question of the relative performance of group decision making [or problem solving] versus individual efforts – which performs best [and how to define and measure “best” ]. The question has arisen and been discussed in several hangouts. Here is what has been discovered:
1)Groups do  outperform the best individuals in problem solving tasks;
2)Measuring Group Decision Making effectiveness depends on a number of criteria;
3)Group Decision Making  is an even larger topic for its follies […uhh departures from rational expectations]  than individual decision making.
And this is only the start of a topic of great interest that was sparked in the group discussions of Individual Irrational Behaviour. Thus, the course provided its own “proof” of the effectiveness of group discussion and  decision making.

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