Decision Analysis: Introduction

"Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to walk from here?"
"That depends a good deal on where you want to get to," said the Cat.
"I don't much care where--" said Alice.
"Then it doesn't matter which way you walk," said the Cat.
"--so long as I get somewhere, " Alice added as an explanation.
"Oh, you're sure to do that," said the Cat, "if you only walk long enough."
Lewis Carroll, Alice's Adventures in Wonderland

Sometimes the effort to reach a decision on a public policy issue seems very much like wandering in Alice's enchanted forest (where, as the dialogue with the Cheshire Cat continues, Alice is told that "we're all mad here.... You must be, or you wouldn't have come here.") Surely, there must be a better way! In fact, there is a whole family of "better ways," which in common are called "decision analysis." They are attempts to organize the consideration of alternative outcomes in some orderly, logical fashion. In this unit, the focus is primarily on what are called "Decision trees." They are graphic representations of choice and "chance" (i.e., the probability of unknown events).

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© 1996 A.J.Filipovitch
Revised 11 March 2005