A taxonomy of endogenous and exogenous uncertainty in high-risk high-impact contexts

Alison, Laurence and Power, Nicola and van den Heuvel, Claudia and Waring, Sara (2015) A taxonomy of endogenous and exogenous uncertainty in high-risk high-impact contexts. Journal of Applied Psychology, 100 (4). pp. 1309-1318. ISSN 0021-9010

Full text not available from this repository.


By reference to a live hostage negotiation exercise, this study presents a taxonomy of uncertainty that can be usefully applied to assist in the categorization and application of findings from decision-making research conducted in naturalistic (specifically critical incident) settings. Uncertainty was measured via observational methods (during the exercise and by reference to video footage), decision logs, and postincident simulated recall interviews with trainee police officers. Transcripts were coded and analyzed thematically. Uncertainty was dichotomized as deriving from either endogenous sources (about the problem situation itself) or exogenous sources (about the operating system that is dealing with the incident). Overall, exogenous uncertainty (75%) was more prevalent than endogenous uncertainty (25%), specifically during discussions on plan formulation and execution. It was also qualitatively associated with poor role understanding and trust. Endogenous uncertainty was more prevalent during discussions on situation assessment and plan formulation. The taxonomy provides a useful way for organizational researchers to categorize uncertainty during the naturalistic observations of workplace interactions and decision making. It reduces the complexity associated with observational research to allow organizational psychologists to better tailor their recommendations for reducing uncertainty. Dealing with endogenous uncertainties would entail targeting decision making specific to the problem incident (e.g., introduce training or policy to reduce redundant fixation on rote-repetitive superordinate goals and focus on more short-term actionable goals during situation assessments). Dealing with exogenous uncertainties would entail improving decision making relating to management and team processes across critical incidents (e.g., training to clarify distributed roles in critical incident teams to aid plan formulation and execution). Organizational researchers interested in uncertainty management in the workplace should utilize this taxonomy as a guide to (a) categorize uncertainty and (b) generate applicable recommendations from their findings.

Item Type:
Journal Article
Journal or Publication Title:
Journal of Applied Psychology
Uncontrolled Keywords:
ID Code:
Deposited By:
Deposited On:
25 Feb 2016 13:16
Last Modified:
15 Sep 2023 00:24