Publications

Books by Neely Center Authors

The Smart Organization: Creating Value Through Strategic R&D

The Smart Organization: Creating Value Through Strategic R&D

The New American Workplace

The New American Workplace

Robot Ethics

Robot Ethics: The Ethical and Social Implications of Robotics

Leadning Change

Leading Change: The Argument For Value-Based Leadership

Foundations of Multiattribute Utility

Foundations of Multiattribute Utility

Foundations of Decision Analysis

Foundations of Decision Analysis

Ethics {For the Real World}

Ethics {for the Real World}

Achieving Ethical Completence for Public Service Leadership

Achieving Ethical Competence for Public Service Leadership

 

Foundations of Multiattribute Utility

Publication Type:
Book

Authors:
Ali E. Abbas

Publish Date:
Thursday, May 31, 2018

Description/Abstract:
Many of the complex problems faced by decision makers involve uncertainty as well as multiple conflicting objectives. This book provides a complete understanding of the types of objective functions that should be used in multiattribute decision making. By using tools such as preference, value, and utility functions, readers will learn state-of-the-art methods to analyze prospects to guide decision making and will develop a process that guarantees a defensible analysis to rationalize choices. Summarizing and distilling classical techniques and providing extensive coverage of recent advances in the field, the author offers practical guidance on how to make good decisions in the face of uncertainty. This text will appeal to graduate students and practitioners alike in systems engineering, operations research, business, management, government, climate change, energy, and healthcare.

 

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Foundations of Decision Analysis: Introduction to Quality Decision Making

Publication Type:
Book

Authors:
Ronald Howard
Ali E. Abbas

Publish Date:
Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Description/Abstract:
Foundations of Decision Analysis is a groundbreaking text that explores the art of decision making, both in life and in professional settings. By exploring themes such as dealing with uncertainty and understanding the distinction between a decision and its outcome, the First Edition teaches readers to achieve clarity of action in any situation. The book treats decision making as an evolutionary process from a scientific standpoint. Strategic decision-making analysis is presented as a tool to help students understand, discuss, and settle on important life choices. Through this text, readers will understand the specific thought process that occurs behind approaching any decision to make easier and better life choices for themselves.

Recommended Citation:
Howard, R. A. and A. E. Abbas. 2015. Foundations of Decision Analysis, Prentice Hall, NY.

 

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Constructing Multiattribute Utility Functions for Decision Analysis

Publication Type:
Published Articles & Papers

Authors:
Ali E. Abbas

Publish Date:
Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Description/Abstract:
A fundamental step in decision analysis is the accurate representation of the decision maker’s preferences. When the decision situation is deterministic, each alternative leads to a single prospect (consequence). A prospect may be characterized by one or more attributes, such as health state and wealth. A value function that ranks the prospects is sufficient to rank order the decision alternatives in deterministic decision problems. When uncertainty is present, each alternative may result in a number of possible prospects, each characterized by a number of attributes. A von Neumann– Morgenstern utility function, defined over the domain of the attributes, is then required for each prospect we face. The best decision alternative is the one with the highest expected utility. This chapter surveys a variety of methods for constructing multiattribute utility functions. These methods include (i) using a deterministic value function and a one-dimensional utility function over value, (ii) using a general expansion theorem for multiattribute utility functions, (iii) using an independence assumption and a utility diagram to simplify the assessment of the conditional utility functions, (iv) using an attribute dominance condition to reduce the number of assessments, (v) using a utility copula to incorporate dependence using single-attribute assessments, (vi) deriving the functional form by asserting the number of preference switches that may occur for lotteries defined on a subset of the attributes, and (vii) characterizing preferences using functional equations to derive the functional form.

Recommended Citation:
Ali E. Abbas. Constructing Multiattribute Utility Functions for Decision Analysis. In INFORMS Tutorials in Operations Research. Published online: 14 Oct 2014; 62-98.

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Teaching Decision Making with Social Networks

Publication Type:
Published Articles & Papers

Authors:
Ali E. Abbas

Publish Date:
Sunday, December 1, 2013

Description/Abstract:
Decision analysis is an essential life skill that is seldom taught before college and is rarely used in our daily decisions. Many people do not even recognize that decision skills can be taught and used. In a 2012 New York Times article [1], Larry Summers noted: “In an earlier era where many people were involved in surveying land, it made sense to require that almost every student entering a top college know something of trigonometry. Today, a basic grounding in probability, statistics and decision analysis makes far more sense.”

Recommended Citation:
Teaching Decision Making with Social Networks. 2013. (Abbas). ORMS Today. 40(6), December 2013

 

 

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Decision Analysis: Past, Present and Future

Publication Type:
Published Articles & Papers

Authors:
A. E. Abbas

Publish Date:
Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Description/Abstract:
Last October, several members of the Decision Analysis Society of INFORMS met in Palo Alto, Calif., with world-renowned economists, political scientists, industry researchers and experts in the fields of climate change, artificial intelligence and national security. Three Ph.D. students and two program directors from the National Science Foundation were also present. Workshop attendees were asked to reflect on the history of decision analysis and to think of the challenges and opportunities DA faces in both research and practice. Another objective was to identify how decision analysis can be used to handle the new problems that have emerged, problems characterized by large data sets, long and uncertain time horizons and group decisions, as well as complex models of beliefs and preferences.

Recommended Citation:
Decision Analysis: Past, Present and Future. 2012. (Abbas) ORMS Today. 39(1), 30-33

 

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Innovative Education: Peer-to-Peer Decision Training

Publication Type:
Published Articles & Papers

Authors:
Ali Abbas
Scarlett Herring
Matthew Robbins
Karen Simms
Chris Spetzler

Publish Date:
Monday, August 1, 2011

Description/Abstract:
Have you heard about coaching teen mentors to teach decision skills to troubled teens? Well, that is exactly what a group from the University of Illinois (U of I) is doing in collaboration with the Decision Education Foundation (DEF). The program is led by Ali Abbas, associate professor of Industrial and Systems Engineering at the U of I. Together, they have teamed up with the Peer Ambassadors (PAs) and the Juvenile Detention Center (JDC) of Champaign County (Ill.) to develop a curriculum to teach JDC teens not only what a decision is, but how to align their decisions with their values and identify possibilities and alternatives for each decision they face. The goal is to engage both the PAs and the JDC residents in decision-making using socially relevant methods. The Peer Ambassadors Program, led by Karen Simms, is a youth leadership and social intervention initiative program designed to empower and educate African American youth in Champaign County. Funded by the Champaign County Mental Health Board, the PA program’s primary mission is to develop young leaders who are able and willing to mentor their peers who are at-risk for school failure or have had some involvement in the juvenile justice or mental health systems.

Recommended Citation:
Peer-To-Peer Decision Training: Teaching Decision Skills to Troubled Teens. 2011. (Abbas, Herring, Robbins, Simms, and Spetzler), ORMS Today, 38 (4), 42-43.

 

 

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Does Probability Weighting Matter in Probability Encoding?

Publication Type:
Published Articles & Papers

Authors:
D. Budescu
A.E. Abbas
L. Wu

Publish Date:
Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Description/Abstract:
One of the most widely used methods for probability encoding in decision analysis uses binary comparisons (choices) between two lotteries: one that depends on the values of the random variable of interest and another that is contingent on an external reference chance device (typically a probability wheel). This note investigates the degree to which differences in probability weighting functions between the two types of events could affect the practice of subjective probability encoding. We develop a general methodology to investigate this question and illustrate it with two popular probability weighting functions over the range of parameters reported in the literature. We use this methodology to (a) alert decision analysts and researchers to the possibility of reversals, (b) identify the circumstances under which overt preferences for one lottery over the other are not affected by the weighting function, (c) document the magnitude of the differences between choices based on probabilities and their corresponding weighting functions, and (d) offer practical recommendations for probability elicitation.

Recommended Citation:
Budescu, D, A. Abbas, L. Wu. 2011. Does Probability Weighting Matter in Probability Encoding? Journal of Mathematical Psychology, 55 (4), 320-327.

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Peer-To-Peer Decision Training

Publication Type:
Published Articles & Papers

Authors:
Ali Abbas
Scarlett Herring
Matthew Robbins
Karen Simms
Chris Spetzler

Publish Date:
Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Description/Abstract:
Have you heard about coaching teen mentors to teach decision skills to troubled teens? Well, that is exactly what a group from the University of Illinois (U of I) is doing in collaboration with the Decision Education Foundation (DEF). The program is led by Ali Abbas, associate professor of Industrial and Systems Engineering at the U of I. Together, they have teamed up with the Peer Ambassadors (PAs) and the Juvenile Detention Center (JDC) of Champaign County, IL, to develop a curriculum to teach JDC teens not only what a decision is, but how to align their decisions with their values and identify possibilities and alternatives for each decision they face. The goal is to engage both the PAs and the JDC residents in decision making using socially relevant methods. The Peer Ambassadors Program, led by Karen Simms, is a youth leadership and social intervention initiative program designed to empower and educate African American youth in Champaign County, IL. Funded by the Champaign County Mental Health Board, the PA program’s primary mission is to develop young leaders who are able and willing to mentor their peers who are at-risk for school failure or have had some involvement in the juvenile justice or mental health systems.

Recommended Citation:
Peer-To-Peer Decision Training. (Abbas, Herring, Robbins, Simms, and Spetzler). Decision Analysis Today, 29(3), 25-26. 2010.

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Normative Decision Making with Multiattribute Performance Targets

Publication Type:
Published Articles & Papers

Authors:
A.E. Abbas
J. Matheson

Publish Date:
Thursday, October 15, 2009

Description/Abstract:
Many companies set multiple performance targets for their managers and reward them on meeting a threshold value for each target or goal. Examples of such incentive structures abide in the managerial literature and in organizational settings. We show that this incentive structure, while popular, has two main problems: (i) it can induce managers who try to maximize the probability of meeting their performance targets to make decisions that are not compatible with expected utility maximizing decisions, and (ii) it may lead to trade-offs among the performance objectives that are inconsistent with the corporate value function. In this paper, we propose a method to remedy these two problems, while retaining a target-based incentive scheme. We define a multiattribute target as a deterministic region in the space of multiattribute outcomes that has two properties: (1) the probability that the outcome of a multiattribute lottery lies within the target region is equal to the expected utility of the lottery, and (2) all outcomes within the target region are preferred to all outcomes outside it. These two properties lead to a new quantity; which we call the ‘value aspiration equivalent’ that leads managers who maximize the probability of meeting their targets to simultaneously maximize the expected utility, and it also induces trade-offs that are consistent with the decision maker's value function.

Recommended Citation:
Abbas, A. E and J. Matheson. 2010. Normative Decision Making with Multiattribute Performance Targets. Journal of Multicriteria Decision Analysis, 16 (3, 4), 67–78.

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Structuring decision problems: A case study and reflections for practitioners

Publication Type:
Published Articles & Papers

Authors:
Detlof von Winterfeldt
Barbara Fasolo

Publish Date:
Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Description/Abstract:
This article reviews several approaches to problem structuring and, in particular, the three-step structuring process for decision analysis proposed by von Winterfeldt and Edwards: (1) identifying the problem; (2) selecting an appropriate analytical approach; (3) developing the a detailed analytic structure. This three-step process is re-examined in the context of a decision analysis of alternative policies to reduce electromagnetic field exposure from electric power lines. This decision analysis was conducted for a public health organization funded by the California Public Utilities Commission and it was scrutinized throughout by interested stakeholders. As a result a significant effort went into structuring this problem appropriately, with some successes and some missteps. The article extracts lessons from this experience, updating existing guidance on structuring problems for decision analysis, and concluding with some general insights for problem structuring.

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A decision analysis of options to rebuild the New Orleans flood control system

Publication Type:
Published Articles & Papers

Authors:
Carl Southwell
Detlof von Winterfeldt

Publish Date:
Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Description/Abstract:
The levees and floodwalls protecting New Orleans from hurricanes and floods were designed to withstand a Saffir–Simpson category 3 hurricane (see US Army Corps of Engineers – USACE, 1984). When making landfall on 29 August 2005, Hurricane Katrina was designated a category 4 hurricane; later, it was downgraded to a severe category 3. The devastation that followed was more extensive than predicted by the USACE in 1984, but it was close to predictions made by scientists and emergency managers in more recent years (see Maestri, 2002; Laska, 2004). When examining the analyses conducted to support the 1984 decisions to fortify the levees and floodwalls, von Winterfeldt (2006, p. 31) concluded: In summary, there were several problems with the analyses and decisions regarding the development of levees and floodwalls in the New Orleans area: 1) probabilities and consequences of extreme hurricane events were underestimated; 2) alternatives that provided a higher level of protection were not explored; 3) the preferred alternative was implemented slowly and with many funding delays. Subsequent reports (for examples, Interagency Performance Evaluation Task Force – IPET, 2006; Seed et al., 2006) came to similar conclusions. More than a year later, the United States was again facing decisions about how to fortify and upgrade the flood protection system of New Orleans. In a previous paper (von Winterfeldt, 2006),we developed a simple decision tree analysis comparing two alternatives: rebuilding the levees and floodwalls to a 100-year flood protection level or building a new system that has a higher 1000-year protection level. Using a parametric analysis, the previous paper showed that a higher level of protection can be costeffective. The previous paper also described improvements to be implemented in a more complete and comprehensive analysis.

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Decision Support for Pandemic Planning for the State of Wisconsin

Publication Type:
Published Articles & Papers

Authors:
Vicki M. Bier
Lorna Zach
Susan B. King J.D.
Terrence O' Sullivan
Ivaniss Burgos

Publish Date:
Sunday, September 30, 2007

Description/Abstract:
The objective of this project was to develop a decision-analytic framework to support public-health actions that could take place in response to developed pandemic thresholds, based on the guidance contained in the various available Wisconsin, national, and international pandemic plans (World Health Organization, November 2005; U.S. Centers for Disease Control, February 2007; U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, November 2005; U.S. Homeland Security Council, November 2005; U.S. Homeland Security Council, May 2006; Wisconsin Department of Health and Family Services, April 2004).

Recommended Citation:
Bier, Vicki M.; Zach, Lorna; King, Susan B. J.D.; O' Sullivan, Terrence; and Burgos, Ivaniss, "Decision Support for Pandemic Planning for the State of Wisconsin" (2007). Non-published Research Reports. Paper 161. http://research.create.usc.edu/nonpublished_reports/161

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Teaching Decision Skills to Troubled Teens

Publication Type:
Published Articles & Papers

Authors:
Ali Abbas
Nathan Hoffmann
Ronald Howard
Chris Spetzler

Publish Date:
Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Description/Abstract:
The U.S. Department of Justice recorded 2.2 million juvenile arrests in 2003 [1]. Juvenile courts handled 1.6 million delinquency cases in 2002, up from 1.1 million in 1985. Nearly 25,000 16-year-olds in residential placement have an average stay of 105 days in public facilities, and about 85 percent of teens admitted into a juvenile detention center return at least once. For these young people, becoming involved with the juvenile detention system is a traumatic experience that carries with it the danger of being drawn into a cycle of repeated offenses. Operations research professionals have received well-deserved attention for their contributions to improving the criminal justice system and making a significant impact on its pressing issues (see for example, Blumstein [2007] and Morgan [2007]). Our focus in this article is on our experience of teaching decision skills to the teens and officers of the Champaign County Juvenile Detention Center (JDC) in Urbana, Ill. The program is led by Ali Abbas, assistant professor of Industrial and Enterprise Systems Engineering at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC), in partnership with the Decision Education Foundation (DEF), a non-profit organization dedicated to helping young people make better decisions about their lives. Ronald Howard, one of the founders of the field of decision analysis, is president of the DEF.

Recommended Citation:
Teaching Decision Skills to Troubled Teens. (Abbas, Hoffman, Howard, and Spetzler). ORMS Today. 34(4), August 2007

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Choosing What to Protect: Strategic Defensive Allocation Against an Unknown Attacker

Publication Type:
Published Articles & Papers

Authors:
Vicki M. Bier
Santiago Oliveros
Larry Samuelson

Publish Date:
Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Description/Abstract:
We study a strategic model in which a defender must allocate defensive resources to a collection of locations and an attacker must choose a location to attack. In equilibrium, the defender sometimes optimally leaves a location undefended and sometimes prefers a higher vulnerability at a particular location even if a lower risk could be achieved at zero cost. The defender prefers to allocate resources in a centralized (rather than decentralized) manner, the optimal allocation of resources can be non-monotonic in the value of the attacker’s outside option, and the defender prefers her defensive allocation to be public rather than secret.

Recommended Citation:
Bier, Vicki M.; Oliveros, Santiago; and Samuelson, Larry, "Choosing What to Protect: Strategic Defensive Allocation Against an Unknown Attacker" (2007). Published Articles & Papers. Paper 122. http://research.create.usc.edu/published_papers/122

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Entropy Methods for Joint Distributions in Decision Analysis.

Publication Type:
Published Articles & Papers

Authors:
A.E. Abbas

Publish Date:
Wednesday, February 1, 2006

Description/Abstract:
—A fundamental step in decision analysis is the elicitation of the decision maker’s information about the uncertainties of the decision situation in the form of a joint probability distribution. This paper presents a method based on the maximum entropy principle to obtain a joint probability distribution using lower order joint probability assessments. The approach reduces the number of assessments significantly and also reduces the number of conditioning variables in these assessments. We discuss the order of the approximation provided by the maximum entropy distribution with each lower order assessment using a Monte Carlo simulation and discuss the implications of using the maximum entropy distribution in Bayesian inference. We present an application to a practical decision situation faced by a semiconductor testing company in the Silicon Valley.

Recommended Citation:
Abbas, A. E. 2006. Entropy Methods for Joint Distributions in Decision Analysis. IEEE Transactions on Engineering Management, 53 (1) 146-159

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Maximum Entropy Utility

Publication Type:
Published Articles & Papers

Authors:
A.E. Abbas

Publish Date:
Sunday, January 1, 2006

Description/Abstract:
This paper presents a method to assign utility values when only partial information is available about the decision maker’s preferences. We introduce the notion of a utility density function and a maximum entropy principle for utility assignment. The maximum entropy utility solution embeds a large family of utility functions that includes the most commonly used functional forms. We discuss the implications of maximum entropy utility on the preference behavior of the decision maker and present an application to competitive bidding situations where only previous decisions are observed by each party. We also present minimum cross entropy utility, which incorporates additional knowledge about the shape of the utility function into the maximum entropy formulation, and work through several examples to illustrate the approach.

Recommended Citation:
Abbas, A. E. 2006. Maximum Entropy Utility. Operations Research, 54(2), 277-290

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Utility Transversality: A Value-Based Approach

Publication Type:
Published Articles & Papers

Authors:
J.E. Matheson
A.E. Abbas

Publish Date:
Thursday, September 1, 2005

Description/Abstract:
We examine multiattribute decision problems where a value function is specified over the attributes of a decision problem, as is typically done in the deterministic phase of a decision analysis. When uncertainty is present, a utility function is assigned over the value function to represent the decision maker's risk attitude towards value, which we refer to as a value-based approach. A fundamental result of using the value-based approach is a closed form expression that relates the risk aversion functions of the individual attributes to the trade-off functions between them. We call this relation utility transversality. The utility transversality relation asserts that once the value function is specified there is only one dimension of risk attitude in multiattribute decision problems. The construction of multiattribute utility functions using the value-based approach provides the flexibility to model more general functional forms that do not require assumptions of utility independence. For example, we derive a new family of multiattribute utility functions that describes richer preference structures than the usual multilinear family. We also show that many classical results of utility theory, such as risk sharing and the notion of a corporate risk tolerance, can be derived simply from the utility transversality relations by appropriate choice of the value function.

Recommended Citation:
Matheson, J. E. and A. E. Abbas. 2005. Utility Transversality: A Value-Based Approach; Journal of Multicriteria Decision Analysis, 13, 229-238.

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Normative Target-Based Decision Making

Publication Type:
Published Articles & Papers

Authors:
A.E. Abbas
J.E. Matheson

Publish Date:
Thursday, August 25, 2005

Description/Abstract:
This paper relates normative expected-utility decision making to target-based decision making, and introduces a new quantity, the aspiration equivalent. We show that using the aspiration equivalent as a target provides a new method for choosing between lotteries that is consistent with expected-utility maximization. Furthermore, we show that the aspiration equivalent target provides a win–win situation for executive–manager delegation. This result furnishes a new link between normative decision analysis and target-based decision making.

Recommended Citation:
Abbas, A. E. and J. E. Matheson. 2005. Normative Target-Based Decision Making. Managerial and Decision Economics, 26 (6), 373-385.

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Teaching Teens How to Make Good Decisions

Publication Type:
Published Articles & Papers

Authors:
Ali Abbas
Dave Reiter
Carl Spetzler
Steve Tani

Publish Date:
Sunday, August 1, 2004

Description/Abstract:
Good decision-making is an essential life skill, but most people acquire it only through a process of trial and error — if at all. Decision Education Foundation (DEF) is a nonprofit organization that equips young people with powerful decision-making skills to help them better shape their futures. This is the core of our vision: Better Decisions-Better Lives. Since its founding, DEF has advanced its mission through a variety of programs. In addition to designing and teaching an innovative course for academically gifted teens — the focus of this article — we also have developed and delivered extensive curriculum for troubled teens, as well as for "mainstream" youth. We have linked our curriculum to standard language arts and mathematics courses, and we have created standalone decision courses. We have taught teachers and students. Our sponsor and partner organizations include Strategic Decisions Group, Decision Strategies International, Susquehanna International Group, Microsoft Corporation, Stanford University, Santa Clara University (Calif.), Foothill College (Calif.), Mastery Charter High School (Pa.), Sioux Central Community School (Iowa), Muriel Wright Ranch School (Calif.), Boys and Girls Clubs of the Peninsula (Calif.), and a number of philanthropic foundations. This list is growing daily. Our work is driven by expert volunteers from the decision sciences community, including faculty and students from Stanford University, UC-Berkeley and Wharton, and senior consultants from several companies. This impressive array of people and organizations are linked by our shared vision: "Better Decisions - Better Lives."

Recommended Citation:
Teaching Teens How to Make Good Decisions. (Abbas, Reiter, Spetzler, and Tani). ORMS Today. 31(4), August 2004.

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