Parameter estimates in large-scale complex engineered systems affect system evolution yet can be difficult and expensive to test. Systems engineering uses analytical methods to reduce uncertainty, but a growing body of work from other disciplines indicates that cognitive heuristics also affect decision-making. Interviews with several expert aerospace practitioners suggest that engineers bias estimation strategies. Practitioners reaffirmed known system features and posited that engineers may bias estimation methods as a negotiation and resource conservation strategy. Specifically, participants reported that some systems engineers “game the system” by biasing requirements to counteract subsystem estimation biases. An agent-based model simulation which recreates these characteristics is presented. Model results suggest that the systems engineers’ “gaming” strategy of counteracting subsystem bias may decrease system-level estimate accuracy and increase uncertainty.

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