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Clinical Versus Actuarial Judgment

In: Philosophy and Psychology

Submitted By msliz
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Clinical judgment is when one believes on whatever relevant data or what we believe is the best choice, while actuarial judgment solely uses practical proven statistical associations between data and outcome; in other words, one selects what statistics or numbers recommend (Dawes, Faust, & Meehl, 1989). I believe that both ways are not better than each other because for the most part, people tend to use their best judgments based on the situation at hand and an actuarial judgment may not offer the best choice.

One of my clinical judgments was choosing a pest control company to fumigate my home bi-weekly. They showed up at my front door explaining the process and how they can eliminate all types of insects and other pests from my home. I was motivated to give them a try as I had recently moved into the house and did not have anyone doing this service during that time. They also offered to fumigate immediately and bill me monthly (did not have to pay that day). I thought this was a pretty good deal.

After a week or so after the fumigation, I noticed I was getting spider webs by my front door. I called the service so they could come back out and take care of the situation. They came over and explained that it will take a few tries to kill these spiders. I was a bit upset as I did not have them prior to the fumigation. They explained that the venom drew them out and at least I can see them now. At that point I just asked them to fumigate around the area again and called the office to cancel the service.

I probably would have made a better judgment if I had used the actuarial method by researching the company and finding out how their service compared to similar companies and/or perhaps asking my neighbors. I was new to the area and I had never owned a house before, so I felt I was taken advantage of by a company that is aware of who the new homeowners are.

On the other hand, I used actuarial judgment when purchasing my home. I researched all the homes being built in the area, visited multiple builders, and looked at the models carefully to ensure they would meet my basic needs. The choice took over a month because I was unsure of certain things such as: do I want my front door facing East or West, what type of elevation I wanted the house to have, what type of roof tiles, and which plants should be at the front versus the back. I was also able to go to multiple websites for the builders that gave customer feedbacks which helped me make some of the decisions. “The statistical method provided more accurate predictions” (Hastie & Dawes, 2010); therefore, I relied on the multitude of satisfied customers and their choices.

I know that using a clinical judgment for the purchase of my home would have been a disaster. Due to the lack of knowledge on what I needed to concentrate when the contractors were building my home, I would have accepted errors that were not part of my contract. I was able to get things fixed before they were finalized, eliminating time and cost to the builder. The only part of my judgment that I still wish I had done actuarial was letting the builder set up my backyard landscape. I got influenced by a friend to build it later rather than go through the expense with the builder. My initial gut feeling told me to let the builder do it; but, I followed my friend’s advice, which now I still regret.

I, for one, am a person that usually makes clinical judgments because for the most part, I am good at solving everyday problems as I encounter them. This could be due to the fact that most decisions to be made are in a simple environment that enables me to make quick and effective choices. Don’t get me wrong, I will use actuarial judgment when I have to make a choice that affects the entire family; for example, buying a house, car, where to live, and schools as this method is more precise than clinical predictions.

Overall, both types of judgment are necessary in our lives to be able to be effective in today’s world and “even when actuarial methods merely equal the accuracy of clinical methods, they may save considerable time and expense” (Dawes, Faust, & Meehl, 1989).


Dawes, R. M., Faust, D., & Meehl, P. E. (1989). Article: Clinical Versus Actuarial

Judgment. Science, 243(4899), 1668–1675.

Hastie, R. & Dawes, R. M. (2010) Rational Choice in an Uncertain World; the

Psychology of Judgment and Decision Making. (2ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA:

Sage Publications.…...

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