Biases in multicriteria decision analysis: The case of environmental planning in Southern Nevada

Josephine Gatti Schafer, Caleb T. Gallemore

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


Multicriteria decision analysis is a decision support aid touted for its ability to help participants overcome bias and make holistic assessments. However, few offer empirical tests of this thesis. This research examines the use of multicriteria decision analysis to implement the Southern Nevada Public Lands Management Act. The Act called upon federal, regional, and local agencies to develop a connected system of parks, trails, and natural areas throughout Nevada. The partners used multicriteria decision analysis to make decisions about which parks, trails, and natural areas projects to fund. We assess the extent of political and cognitive biases among the participants when using the multicriteria decision analysis process. We find no strong evidence of strategic behavior, a finding that highlights many of the celebratory claims made about multicriteria decision analysis. However, we also note a preference for projects adjacent to high-income areas as well as the presence of cognitive biases in the assignment of scores to projects.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1652-1675
Number of pages24
JournalEnvironment and Planning C: Government and Policy
Issue number8
StatePublished - 2015
Externally publishedYes


  • bias
  • Multicriteria decision analysis
  • political economy
  • public amenities
  • regional planning

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Environmental Science (miscellaneous)
  • Public Administration
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law


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