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Using Adaptive Simulations to Develop Cognitive Situational Models of Human Decision-Making
Matt Watkins and Amlan Mukherjee

Situational models allow decision-makers to organize situational information using domain specific knowledge, thus helping them prioritize trade-offs that lead to effective decisions. This is specifically relevant to domains, where there can be more than one “correct” decision and the effectiveness of decisions are not immediately obvious. Construction project management is such a domain. We study situational models of construction managers using a situational simulation of the construction domain to create scenarios that require managers to make trade-offs and see the impact of their decisions unfold in time. Previous work has shown that expert performance is a necessary, but not a sufficient condition for situational awareness. The relationship between situational awareness, decision-making and expertise in complex dynamic environments, has not been formally constructed and measured in a way that allows researchers to identify knowledge organization patterns of expertise The notion that effective situational models lead to effective decisions, and that experts are effective decision-makers is critical to this paper. We use this notion and the construct of situational models to specifically investigate the relationship between situational awareness and expert performance. The broad goal of this research is to improve construction management education by furthering our understanding of differences in expert and novice cognition. In this paper we formally define situational models and propose a method to quantify and measure them.

Keywords: Mental models, decision-making, situational simulations, construction management, cognition and learning

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