Cover image for Sources of power : how people make decisions.
Sources of power : how people make decisions.
Klein, Gary A.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Cambridge, Mass. ; London : MIT, 1999.

Physical Description:
330 pages : illustrations ; 23 cm
General Note:
Originally published: 1998.
Subject Term:
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
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Item Holds
HD30.23 .K44 1998 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

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Anyone who watches the television news has seen images of firefighters rescuing people from burning buildings and paramedics treating bombing victims. How do these individuals make the split-second decisions that save lives? Most studies of decision making, based on artificial tasks assigned in laboratory settings, view people as biased and unskilled. Gary Klein is one of the developers of the naturalistic decision making approach, which views people as inherently skilled and experienced. It documents human strengths and capabilities that so far have been downplayed or ignored.

Since 1985, Klein has conducted fieldwork to find out how people tackle challenges in difficult, nonroutine situations. Sources of Power is based on observations of humans acting under such real-life constraints as time pressure, high stakes, personal responsibility, and shifting conditions. The professionals studied include firefighters, critical care nurses, pilots, nuclear power plant operators, battle planners, and chess masters. Each chapter builds on key incidents and examples to make the description of the methodology and phenomena more vivid. In addition to providing information that can be used by professionals in management, psychology, engineering, and other fields, the book presents an overview of the research approach of naturalistic decision making and expands our knowledge of the strengths people bring to difficult tasks.

Author Notes

Gary Klein is a cognitive psychologist and author of Sources of Power: How People Make Decisions, a book for management professionals on the capabilities of employees in stressful situations and environments.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Table of Contents

1 Chronicling the Strengths Used in Making Difficult Decisions
Features of Naturalistic Decision-Making Settings
2 Learning from the Firefighters
Recovering from a Research Plan
Figuring Out How to Do the Project
3 The Recognition-Primed Decision Model
Listening to the Data
Comparing the Categories
Defining the Recognition-Primed Decision Model
The Theoretical Importance of the RPD Model
Key Points
4 The Power of Intuition
The Infected Babies
Some of the Costs of Field Research
5 The Power of Mental Simulation
The Polish Economy
Models of Mental Simulation
Explaining a Situation
Projecting into the Future
How Mental Simulations Can Fail
Key Points
6 The Vincennes Shootdown
Chronology of the Vincennes Shootdown
Prior Events
7 Mental Simulation and Decision Making
Mental Simulation and the RPD Model
Situation Awareness
Courses of Action
Testing the RPD Model in Different Domains
8 The Power to Spot Leverage Points
9 Nonlinear Aspects of Problem Solving
Traditional Models of Problem Solving
Stage Models
Artificial Intelligence Approach
The Apollo 13 Mission: A Case Study of Problem Solving
Problem Solving and Decision Making
Key Points
10 The Power to See the Invisible
The Big Picture: Situation Awareness
The Way Things Work
Opportunities and Improvisations
The Past and the Future
Fine Discriminations
Managing Our Own Limitations
Expertise and Decision Making
Key Points
11 The Power of Stories
Features of Good Stories
Using Stories to Make Sense of Events
Key Points
12 The Power of Metaphors and Analogues
The Logic of Metaphorical Reasoning
The Logic of Analogical Reasoning
Generating Expectancies
Solving Problems
Key Points
13 The Power to Read Minds
Considerations in Communicating Intent
Key Points
14 The Power of the Team Mind
The Concept of Team Mind
The Functions of a Team Mind
How a Team Mind Develops
The Development of Team Decision Making
Team Competencies
Team Identity
Team Cognition
Team Metacognition
The Chaotic Nature of the Team Mind
Unpredictable Ideas
Unpredictable Flow of Attention
The Delusion of Controlling Their Own Thoughts
The Delusion of Controlling Their Actions
Ideas That Control the Team
The Team Mind as a Metaphor for Thinking
Key Points
15 The Power of Rational Analysis and the Problem of Hyperrationality
The Role of Rational Analysis
The Nature of Rational Thinking
The Limits of Rational Thinking
Lack of Basic Elements
Ambiguous Rules
Difficulty of Setting Up the Calculations
Combinatorial Explosions
The Hobgoblin
Key Points
16 Why Good People Make Poor Decisions
Are Poor Decisions Caused by Biased Thinking?
What Accounts for Errors in Natural Decision Settings?
The Effect of Stress on Decision Making
The Problem of Uncertainty
Expertise versus Superstition
Key Points
17 Conclusions
Compiling the Assertions
Connecting the Sources of Power
Is This Science?
Final Thoughts and Final Perceptions