Systems Errors

Reasoning about a complex problem routinely employs the use of one of a number of systems-based approaches (Jackson, 1991, 2000, 2003). Independent of the method used to address a complex problem is the opportunity to commit a number of errors. Analytical and interpretational errors are common while thinking about, acting on, and observing problems; however, none of these systems approaches explicitly addresses these potential errors. Further, despite their prominence, there is not an agreed-upon taxonomy for errors in problem solving approaches. Thus, the authors have worked to establish an initial taxonomy for error classification (Adams & Hester, 2012, 2013), which is expanded upon in this text. This taxonomy has drawn from research performed by researchers representing four of the 42 fields of science (OECD, 2007), as depicted in Table 1.1.

Based on our review of the literature in Table 1.1, we were able to develop a taxonomy of eight common errors that individuals are prone to encounter while thinking about, acting on, and observing problems. We will not discuss the errors in numerical order; rather, we begin with discussion of the Type III error and proceed by discussing errors in the chronological order in which they are most often encountered while attempting to address a complex problem.

Table 1.1 Science sector and field of science that have conducted inquiry on errors (adapted from Adams & Hester, 2013, p. 319)



Field of science






Betz and Gabriel (1978), Kaufman, Dudley-Marling, and Serlin (1986), Marascuilo and Levin (1970, 1976), Onwuegbuzie and Daniel (2003), Rosnow and Rosenthal (1989, 1991)


Games (1973), Kaiser (1960), Leventhal and Huynh (1996), Levin and Marascuilo (1972, 1973), Meyer (1991), Mitroff (1998), Mitroff and Featheringham (1974), Reason (1990)

Economics and business

Boal and Meckler (2010), Umesh, Peterson, McCann-Nelson, and Vaidyanathan (1996)




Holland (1986), Kimball (1957), Mosteller (1948), Neyman and Pearson (1928a, b, 1933), Tracz, Nelson, Newman, and Beltran (2005)

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