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Flaws Lurking in Engineering Design-Decision Making: The Attribute Set Dissociation Problem

[+] Author Affiliations
Vijitashwa Pandey

Oakland University, Rochester, MI

Paper No. DETC2016-59628, pp. V02AT03A018; 7 pages
  • ASME 2016 International Design Engineering Technical Conferences and Computers and Information in Engineering Conference
  • Volume 2A: 42nd Design Automation Conference
  • Charlotte, North Carolina, USA, August 21–24, 2016
  • Conference Sponsors: Design Engineering Division, Computers and Information in Engineering Division
  • ISBN: 978-0-7918-5010-7
  • Copyright © 2016 by ASME


The applicability of theoretical decision analysis, while rationally sound, has eluded mainstream engineering design. A reason commonly overlooked is that basic concepts in decision analysis do not scale naturally to multiple attributes — which are encountered in, by far, most design problems. In this paper, we document a paradox when dealing with transactions involving multiple attributes. We show the possibility of a money pump where if we dissociate part of an attribute from a design, the rest of the design can be manipulated to get either a better design or create wealth out of nothing. To reconcile with paradox, it is argued that there is a fundamental problem dealing with multiple attributes where a frame of reference chosen (purposefully) ignores external inputs, assuming that design decisions happen in the vacuum of the frame chosen. For example, in a simple design valuation decision, the money amount committed does not necessarily come from a fixed range of negotiability (upper and lower limits) but is subject to change if significant changes in other attributes are possible. The root cause of this issue is that fungible attributes such as money can form a part of the attribute set or be trivially dissociated from it, if needed. We argue that this is rational behavior on a decision maker’s part. However, most utility formulations do not model it and lead to the paradox. We call this the attribute dissociation problem. A specific definition is provided as well as implications on design as well as preference elicitation methods are considered. Finally, formulations are presented that avoid this problem and recommendations are provided.

Copyright © 2016 by ASME
Topics: Design



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