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An Article All Kayakers Should Read (Heuristic Traps)

Posted: Thu Oct 10, 2013 6:37 pm
by sandra
http://avtrainingadmin.org/pubs/mccammonhtraps.pdf

Although written with regard to avalanche accidents, there isn't one point that doesn't have a parallel in whitewater kayaking. This article came to my attention by a colleague at the school where I work and we discussed it at length among the staff and students.

After reading it I could think of many examples where I, or people I paddle with, have fallen into heuristic traps. The benefits of reading it is that you can be more aware that these traps exist and try and detect them before accidents happen.

His attempts to use quantitative data in this realm are very impressive, but I feel that due to the number of different factors in an environment such as he is considering (or in kayaking), the statistics have to be taken with a pinch of salt. However I feel the real take-home is not quantitative data but the qualitative awareness that these traps exist and attempting to recognise them in on-water situations.

Anyhow, enough of my ramblings...you should read the article!

Re: An Article All Kayakers Should Read (Heuristic Traps)

Posted: Thu Oct 10, 2013 7:11 pm
by DaveBland
Thanks, that was very interesting... after I'd googled "heuristic" to see what it meant!
Totally transferrable to paddling.

Re: An Article All Kayakers Should Read (Heuristic Traps)

Posted: Thu Oct 10, 2013 11:38 pm
by Rory W
How many times have you read or heard about people trusting (and even urging others to trust) that 'inner voice'?
Sandra wrote:However I feel the real take-home is not quantitative data but the qualitative awareness that these traps exist and attempting to recognise them in on-water situations.
At the end he seems to suggest that even this isn't going to help very much, and that people will ignore even the awareness of these traps (not sure I agree that it isn't going to help).
article wrote:The challenge is to encode knowledge into simple,
easily-applied decision tools that can compete with the
heuristic traps described here. Luckily, such tools
don’t need to be perfect to save lives. They just need
to be more accurate than the social cues that most
avalanche victims apparently rely on.
Sounds pretty simple when he puts it that way, but anyone any thoughts what these could be?

Re: An Article All Kayakers Should Read (Heuristic Traps)

Posted: Fri Oct 11, 2013 12:58 am
by DaveBland
It's something I've been pondering on too.
I think it's the trading off of pros and cons that is the issue.
I don't feel that good today - vs- it's a big group, or
It looks really high - vs - it's a familiar run.

I have a "3 negatives rule". Pretty much every time something has gone wrong, it's been not one, but a string of smaller things that have contributed to it. Things like, forgetting kit and borrowing unfamiliar stuff, running late so skipping breakfast, getting on later than planned so risking finishing in the dark and rushing...
As soon as there are 3 negatives I try and bail - or at least down-plan to accommodate.

I think it's recognising these signs that's the key, and what the article is in part on about?

Re: An Article All Kayakers Should Read (Heuristic Traps)

Posted: Fri Oct 11, 2013 6:19 am
by PaddleSlapper
This is good. Don't be put off by the term 'heuristic' in the title. All this means is the everyday life-skill of using rules-of-thumb, or even feel based on experience, that allows quick decisions to be taken without doing a full analysis.

An example of a white-water heuristic I'm guilty of is "if it's grade 4 I'll run it, if it's grade 5 I won't". This works for me most of the time, but blindly following it could lead to me running a riskier grade 4 in its most dangerous condition, and walking a safer grade 5 at its easiest.

Which is what this paper is about - factors that could lead to greater risks being taken than are appreciated. For those without the attention span to read the article (I didn't make it through the statistics at the end), I think it's worth summarising the main 'traps' that can unconsciously lead to greater risk taking.

Trap #1: Familiarity
We take relatively greater risks on a river we're familiar and comfortable on even when a change of conditions makes it riskier.

Trap #2: Consistency
If we've decided to run something, we'll tend to stick with that decision even in the light of new information that shows it to be riskier than first realised.

Trap #3: Acceptance
Trying to impress leads to greater risk taking. The evidence indicates more risks are taken in mixed-sex groups, though interestingly women are shown to avoid groups that take greater risks.

Trap #4: The Expert Halo
We'll take greater risks if we think the group leader knows what he's doing. Even if he doesn't. The evidence shows peer groups take relatively fewer risks.

Trap #5: Social Facilitation
Those confident in their abilities take greater risks when there's an audience (or for me, a camera) present. Interestingly, the evidence indicates those less confident in their abilities take fewer risks when there's an audience.

Trap #6: Scarcity
We'll take greater risks to get on a river that isn't frequently runnable.

Hopefully, awareness of these traps will lead to more accurate risk analysis on the river. It's still worth reading the paper though - the first half anyway. The figure 2 risk-taken vs group-size graph is particularly interesting.

Duncan

Re: An Article All Kayakers Should Read (Heuristic Traps)

Posted: Fri Oct 11, 2013 7:59 am
by freddie
PaddleSlapper wrote:Hopefully, awareness of these traps will lead to more accurate risk analysis on the river. It's still worth reading the paper though - the first half anyway. The figure 2 risk-taken vs group-size graph is particularly interesting.
A very interesting article, this bit stood out for me too. When I paddle with a medium size group, the 'heuristic traps' do seem to come about easier.
In a group usually there's someone who'd done the river before (familiarity), and therefore usually would end up in a way 'in charge' (expert halo) even if they can't remember the river (which happens a lot).
In a larger group there is usually also a desire to run what the rest of the group has decided to run, even though everyone might not be totally on board, there usually ends up being some sort of group consent, either down to one person being more up for it and everyone going along as they have no desire to say no, or no major feelings either way. Acceptance and social facilitation are also going to be linked in with this decision making, especially in a slightly larger group where you might not know everybody as well as in a smaller group.

All of the traps are linked, where there's one, more are likley to be there too, especially in a medium/large group situation, even if you don't realise it, it's very easy to persuade a group to do what you want. Have you ever taken people down a river that they insisted they were happy to do, but only after you'd decided to do it and told them they'd be fine?

Re: An Article All Kayakers Should Read (Heuristic Traps)

Posted: Fri Oct 11, 2013 9:22 am
by Mal Grey
Excellent, thought provoking stuff. Thanks for linking.

Re: An Article All Kayakers Should Read (Heuristic Traps)

Posted: Fri Oct 11, 2013 2:42 pm
by RizzRat
DaveBland wrote:
I have a "3 negatives rule". Pretty much every time something has gone wrong, it's been not one, but a string of smaller things that have contributed to it. Things like, forgetting kit and borrowing unfamiliar stuff, running late so skipping breakfast, getting on later than planned so risking finishing in the dark and rushing...
As soon as there are 3 negatives I try and bail - or at least down-plan to accommodate.

Very wise! I completely agree with you there - thinking back to my most recent epic it was down to a combination of follies

1. Quick lets run this section again before we go back to England
2. Yep you've not done it so you should come with us you'll be fine
3. Yep I'll hold back so you guys can go first you know which way right?
4. We're blasting down we'll signal when we actually need to
5. Crap/shit bags/its all gone wrong!

Re: An Article All Kayakers Should Read (Heuristic Traps)

Posted: Fri Oct 11, 2013 5:04 pm
by R3V
Along the same lines- cant find the link ATM but think something which people need to be aware of about risk taking behaviour and age.
Elegant study from america looking at taking behaviour in a simulator three groups, Teenager, Young adult, mature adult( >35)
demonstrated that no statistical difference in risk taking behaiour WHEN TASK COMPLTED ALONE BUT

when task repeated WITH PEER BESIDES teenager risk taking behavioue increased 2-3 fold, mature adult NO increase in risk taking, Young (immature?) adult risk taking increased to level approx between the two.

Implication: Mature adults aren't influenced by peers. For safest (rational) decision allow the decision to be decided by a mature adult.

Re: An Article All Kayakers Should Read (Heuristic Traps)

Posted: Fri Oct 11, 2013 9:39 pm
by DaveBland
So... I interpret that as paddling in a group is dangerous and to avoid those traps, paddling solo is the answer!
I knew Dr Robin was a genius.

Re: An Article All Kayakers Should Read (Heuristic Traps)

Posted: Fri Oct 11, 2013 10:30 pm
by morsey
Similar points came up in discussion before from an avalanche skiing video: http://www.ukriversguidebook.co.uk/foru ... =3&t=76233

Re: An Article All Kayakers Should Read (Heuristic Traps)

Posted: Sat Oct 12, 2013 8:05 am
by twopigs

Re: An Article All Kayakers Should Read (Heuristic Traps)

Posted: Sat Oct 12, 2013 8:55 am
by Mark R
Plenty of interesting stuff in there, thanks for sharing.

Re: An Article All Kayakers Should Read (Heuristic Traps)

Posted: Sat Oct 12, 2013 9:40 am
by David Fairweather
Thanks for sharing. That's certainly worth reading for anyone involved in saftey and rescue or leadership training.

Re: An Article All Kayakers Should Read (Heuristic Traps)

Posted: Sat Oct 12, 2013 10:15 am
by Dan Yates.
R3V wrote:Teenager, Young adult, mature adult( >35)

For safest (rational) decision allow the decision to be decided by a mature adult.
I can not believe that I'm categorized as a mature adult and secondly I doubt you would find anyone in the group I paddle with who would agree with the above statement (at least with regard to myself) .

Dan

Re: An Article All Kayakers Should Read (Heuristic Traps)

Posted: Thu May 16, 2019 10:40 am
by andynormancx
That website doesn't exist any more, I assume this is the same document ?

http://arc.lib.montana.edu/snow-science ... 44-251.pdf

Re: An Article All Kayakers Should Read (Heuristic Traps)

Posted: Thu May 16, 2019 4:55 pm
by roo
sandra wrote:
Thu Oct 10, 2013 6:37 pm
http://avtrainingadmin.org/pubs/mccammonhtraps.pdf


Anyhow, enough of my ramblings...you should read the article!
If I could get the link to work, I would love to read it!!

Re: An Article All Kayakers Should Read (Heuristic Traps)

Posted: Thu May 16, 2019 5:35 pm
by Chris Bolton
roo wrote:If I could get the link to work, I would love to read it!!
As it happens I downloaded the original link in 2013, so here it is:

https://www.ukriversguidebook.co.uk/ima ... htraps.pdf

andynormancx's link is, I think, an earlier version by the same author