The Role of Prepriming in Recognition-Primed Decisionmaking Academic Article uri icon


  • Klein's (1989a) Recognition-primed Decision model proposes that the experienced decisionmaker, on encountering an incident requiring complex time-pressured decisions, first categorizes the situation as a variant of a familiar type of problem and subsequently simulates mentally the likely consequences of acting on the basis of the categorization. Drawing on data obtained in two studies, the first with Australian Football League umpires and the second with experienced firefighters, this paper suggests that Klein's model be extended to take into account the active mental processing that occurs immediately prior to the incident. In both studies, participants reported engaging in active simulations, based on the limited information available prior to exposure to the actual decisional incident. This suggests that in many time-pressured naturalistic decision settings, the experienced decisionmaker enters the situation with a number of most-likely prototype situations already activated in memory (preprimed) and that situational assessments and possibilities for action are first made from among this reduced set of preprimed prototypes.

publication date

  • June 1996