more on the author than on decision theory, nobody warned us before the experiments that the results would be trivial. The experiments were required to discover the participants' strategies in dealing with the decision problems of the kind that a dynamic task such as NEWFIRE poses.
The strategies were discovered because the experiments focused on what the participants actually did, rather than on a comparison between a normative model and actual behavior. Had the focus been on such a comparison, we would have discovered what other experiments on decision making with that focus have discovered: that people do not make optimal decisions. However, by examining the participants' actual behavior, we discovered that although their decisions may not have been optimal, the participants nevertheless made something that could be considered reasonable in that it got the job done, albeit at a higher cost than might have been necessary.
The dynamic character of the task studied here is, of course, an important aspect: it is only by examining the final outcome of a process where the participants are able to adapt and correct earlier mistakes in later decisions that we can discover that the participants actually get the job done. If we had only examined a single decision in the series, we could never have discovered that the participants were able to extinguish the fires.
Fire-fighting is, of course, not the only task to which these considerations apply. Guided by the concept of reasonable decision making, rather than that of optimal decision making, and with a focus on the whole process from initial decision to final outcome, we may well find the explanation for why the world is not in the sorry state that the results from decision research would suggest.
This study was supported by a grant from the Swedish Council for Research in the Humanities and Social Sciences.