From Origami to Software Development: A Review of Studies on Judgment-Based Predictions of Performance Time

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Abstract

This article provides an integrative review of the literature on judgment-based predictions of performance time, often described as task duration predictions in psychology and as expert-based effort estimation in engineering and management science. We summarize results on the characteristics of performance time predictions, processes and strategies, the influence of task characteristics and contextual factors, and the relations between estimates and characteristics of the estimator. Although dependent on the type of study and the level of analysis, underestimation was more frequently reported than overestimation in studies from the engineering and management literature. However, this was not the case in studies from the psychology literature. Our summaries challenge earlier results regarding the effects of factors such as complexity/difficulty and experience. We also question the recurrent finding that small tasks are overestimated and large tasks are underestimated, as this to some extent can be a statistical artifact caused by random error. Several other influences on predictions are identified and discussed. These include various types of anchoring effects, performance and accuracy incentives, task decomposition, request formats, group estimation, revisions of initial ideal or incomplete estimates, level of abstraction, and superficial cues. We summarize similarities and differences between performance time predictions (e.g., number of work hours) and completion time predictions (e.g., delivery dates) because many studies fail to distinguish between these 2 types of predictions. Finally, we discuss methodological issues in time prediction research and implications for research and application.

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