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The Naturalistic Decision Making (NDM) framework emerged as a means of studying how people actually make decisions and perform cognitively complex functions in demanding situations. These include situations marked by time pressure, uncertainty, vague goals, high stakes, team and organizational constraints, changing conditions, and varying amounts of experience.

Origins of the Movement Edit

The NDM movement originated at a conference in Dayton, Ohio in 1989, which resulted in a book by Gary Klein, Judith Orasanu, Roberta Calderwood, and Caroline Zsambok. Since then, NDM conferences have been held every 2-3 years, alternating between U.S. and European venues. A series of NDM books have been published, and in 1995 the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society established a new technical group, Cognitive Engineering and Decision Making, that has built on the NDM tradition.

The FrameworkEdit

The NDM framework focuses on cognitive functions such as decision making, sensemaking, situation awareness, planning – which emerge in natural settings and take forms that are not easily replicated in the laboratory. For example, it is difficult to replicate high stakes, or provide for problem detection, or to achieve extremely high levels of expertise, or to realistically incorporate team and organizational constraints. Therefore, NDM researchers rely on cognitive field research methods such as cognitive task analysis to observe and study skilled performers. From the perspective of scientific methodology, NDM studies usually address the initial stages of observing phenomena and developing descriptive accounts. In contrast, controlled laboratory studies emphasize the testing of hypotheses. NDM and controlled experimentation are thus complementary approaches. NDM provides the observations and models, and controlled experimentation provides the testing and formalization.


  • Klein, G., Orasanu, J., Calderwood, R., and Zsambok, C.E. (1993) "Decision Making in Action: Models and Methods." Ablex Publishing Co., Norwood, NJ.
  • Todd, P. and Gigerenzer, G, "Putting Naturalistic Decision Making into the Adaptive Toolbox", Journal of Behavioral Decision Making, Vol. 14, 353-384, 2001.
  • Zsambok, C.E. and Klein, G (1997) "Naturalistic Decision Making." Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Mahwah, NJ.
  • Johnson, J.G. and Raab, M "Take the First: Option Generation and Resulting Choices," Elsevier Science, San Diego, CA.

External linksEdit

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