Courses & Units

Big Decisions! Rational belief and action in an uncertain world XBR111



What constitutes evidence, what should we believe, and what should we do, given we only have knowledge that is partial and uncertain? Being able to deal with uncertainty is key not only to the physical and social sciences, but also to applied disciplines such as economics, marketing, law, engineering, IT, medicine and nursing. For example, what should we believe about our health based on the result of a medical test, and what treatment option, if any, should we choose? How should we evaluate evidence for climate change and what policies should we support to deal with its potential consequences? These and other difficult and complex real-world problems (often described by planning experts as "wicked problems" because they confound standard solutions and approaches) will be used to illustrate how to update beliefs and make decisions, even when there may be no "right" or one best course of action. The unit will teach basic Bayesian methods of using uncertain evidence to update prior beliefs, and to combine updated beliefs with the expected utilities of different courses of actions in order to make decisions.


Unit name Big Decisions! Rational belief and action in an uncertain world
Unit code XBR111
Credit points 12.5
Faculty/School DVC Students & Education
Tasmanian Institute of Learning and Teaching (TILT)
Discipline Psychology|Mathematics and Physics|Philosophy and Gender Studies

Andrew Heathcote

Teaching staff

Andrew Heathcote, JC Beall, James Chase, Richard Corry, Barbara Holland, Melissa Humphries

Level Introductory
Available as student elective? Yes
Breadth Unit? Yes


Location Study period Attendance options Available to
Hobart Semester 2 On-Campus Off-Campus International International Domestic Domestic


International students
Domestic students

Units are offered as On-campus where the majority of teaching will occur at the campus identified.  Units offered Off-campus generally have no requirement for attendance at a physical university campus unless the unit has practical or fieldwork components*:  the campus indicated for an Off-Campus unit is the one at which teaching is administered from.

*Please read the Unit Introduction in the Course and Unit Handbook for attendance requirements for units offered in Off-campus mode.

Key Dates

Study Period Start date Census date WW date End date
Semester 2 17/7/2017 10/8/2017 4/9/2017 20/10/2017

* The Final WW Date is the final date from which you can withdraw from the unit without academic penalty, however you will still incur a financial liability (see withdrawal dates explained for more information).

Unit census dates currently displaying for 2017 are indicative and subject to change. Finalised census dates for 2017 will be available from the 1st October 2016.

About Census Dates



Band CSP Student Contribution Full Fee Paying (domestic) Field of Education
2 2017: $1,131.00 2017: $2,168.00 010103

Fees for next year will be published in October. The fees above only apply for the year shown.

Please note: international students should refer to this page to get an indicative course cost.



2 on-line quick quizzes (35% each) and a final portfolio submission (30%)

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