Decoupling Judgment and Decision Making: A Tale of Two Tails

Başak Oral*, Pierre Dragicevic, Alex Telea, Evanthia Dimara

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Is it true that if citizens understand hurricane probabilities, they will make more rational decisions for evacuation? Finding answers to such questions is not straightforward in the literature because the terms “judgment” and “decision making” are often used interchangeably. This terminology conflation leads to a lack of clarity on whether people make suboptimal decisions because of inaccurate judgments of information conveyed in visualizations or because they use alternative yet currently unknown heuristics. To decouple judgment from decision making, we review relevant concepts from the literature and present two preregistered experiments (N=601) to investigate if the task (judgment vs. decision making), the scenario (sports vs. humanitarian), and the visualization (quantile dotplots, density plots, probability bars) affect accuracy. While experiment 1 was inconclusive, we found evidence for a difference in experiment 2. Contrary to our expectations and previous research, which found decisions less accurate than their direct-equivalent judgments, our results pointed in the opposite direction. Our findings further revealed that decisions were less vulnerable to status-quo bias, suggesting decision makers may disfavor responses associated with inaction. We also found that both scenario and visualization types can influence people’s judgments and decisions. Although effect sizes are not large and results should be interpreted carefully, we conclude that judgments cannot be safely used as proxy tasks for decision making, and discuss implications for visualization research and beyond. Materials and preregistrations are available at only=adc0f78a23804c31bf7fdd9385cb264f.
Original languageEnglish
JournalIEEE Transactions on Visualization and Computer Graphics
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 2023


  • visualization
  • decision making
  • psychology
  • judgment
  • behavioral economics
  • data
  • experiment


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