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Appears in Collections:Law and Philosophy Journal Articles
Peer Review Status: Refereed
Title: Safety in numbers: how social choice theory can inform avalanche risk management
Author(s): Ebert, Philip A
Morreau, Michael
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Keywords: Risk management
outdoor sports
group decision making
social choice theory
Condorcet’s jury theorem
Issue Date: 21-Jan-2022
Date Deposited: 24-Jan-2022
Citation: Ebert PA & Morreau M (2022) Safety in numbers: how social choice theory can inform avalanche risk management. Journal of Adventure Education and Outdoor Learning.
Abstract: Avalanche studies have undergone a transition in recent years. Early research focused mainly on environmental factors. More recently, attention has turned to human factors in decision making, such as behavioural and cognitive biases. This article adds a social component to this human turn in avalanche studies. It identifies lessons for decision making by groups of skiers from the perspective of social choice theory, a sub-field of economics, decision theory, philosophy and political science that investigates voting methods and other forms of collective decision making. In the first part, we outline the phenomenon of wisdom of crowds, where groups make better decisions than their individual members. Drawing on the conceptual apparatus of social choice theory and using idealised scenarios, we identify conditions under which wisdom of crowds arises and also explain how and when deciding together can instead result in worse decisions than may be expected from individual group members. In the second part, we use this theoretical understanding to offer practical suggestions for decision making in avalanche terrain. Finally, we make several suggestions for risk management in other outdoor and adventure sports and for outdoor sports education.
DOI Link: 10.1080/14729679.2021.2012216
Rights: © 2022 The Author(s). Published by Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group. This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.
Notes: Output Status: Forthcoming/Available Online
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