UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Comparative approach to decision-making : risk-taking by fishing boat captains in two Canadian fleets Cove, John James


This thesis is concerned with a number of important issues in economic anthropology. Substantively, it focuses on explaining differences in the production strategies of commercial fishing captains in two Canadian fleets. At a more general level, it explicates a methodology for formal model development from ethnographic description. During a study of deepsea fishing in Newfoundland, I discovered that captains differed in their risk-taking when trying to locate fish resources. By using certain conclusions from the literature on decision-making in economics and psychology, I was able to build a model of the fishing situation which accounted for the observed differences in fishing strategies. The next step in the research process was to take this model and transform it into a more general one which would have predictive power in other contexts. Three important dimensions of a decision-maker's situation were taken from the Newfoundland model- information, capability, and motivation). The dimensions were combined to generate twelve hypotheses about risk-taking. The general model and six of the hypotheses were tested in the Alert Bay, British Columbia, seiner fleet. Quantitative data was collected by participant observation on the boats. The data allowed me to accept five of the hypotheses, and reject one. In addition to making and testing certain conclusions about risk-taking by fishing captains, the thesis demonstrated that a situationally specific model can be used for comparative research. Such a model can be transformed into a more rigorous one which can be used predictively in other contexts.

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