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Psychological biases and heuristics in the context of foresight and scenario processes

: Schirrmeister, Elna; Göring, Anne-Louise; Warnke, Philine

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Created on: 4.3.2020

Futures & foresight science 2 (2020), No.2, Art. e31, 18 pp.
ISSN: 2573-5152
Journal Article, Electronic Publication
Fraunhofer ISI ()
cognitive biases; Contextual debiasing; foresight; perception filters; psychological heuristics; policy-making; Scenarios

This article studies the relevance of psychological biases and heuristics in the context of foresight and scenario processes. Though there is extensive literature studying cognitive mechanisms from the psychological side, discussions on the application of these findings in the foresight context, and more specifically with regard to specific steps of the scenario method, are rare. Some studies focus on a potential debiasing effect of scenario processes and do not examine the role biases and heuristics play during the process. We address this gap drawing from empirical research and practical experience. First, we examine the relevant cognitive mechanisms using a twofold perspective: Can the respective mechanism be an impediment or can it be an enabler within the scenario process? We specify the circumstances under which the respective mechanism occurs and establish its assumed effects. Second, we outline recommendations on how to modify the method to reduce the bias or to take advantage of it, respectively. In summary, we propose that the contextual debiasing effect of scenario processes can be significantly advanced by applying these modifications and a facilitation team that is aware of psychological biases and heuristics. Finally, implications for the scenario method and directions for future research are discussed.