Delaying decisions in order to learn the distribution of options
Kramer, Adam D. I.
MetadataShow full item record
Kramer, Adam D. I.
This dissertation explores two basic hypotheses about how humans make decisions when presented with a sequential series of options: 1) people have a desire to learn about or experience qualities of the set of options available to them and will delay choice to gain such knowledge; and 2) delaying decision-making in order to better understand the set of options available will lead to better knowledge of the distribution of potential options and better decision outcomes. Three studies, conducted on a total of 302 college student participants, used an "optimal stopping" paradigm, in which participants viewed a series of options (in Studies I and 2, the options determined how their time would he spent in the latter part of the study: in Study 3, the options represented qualities of a hypothetical potential housemate). Participants had to choose or reject each in turn. I show consistent support for two hypothesis: Decision-makers continue to view and review options in order to gain a better understanding of the distribution of potential options, and decision-makers who have a better understanding of the option space end up with higher-quality decisions, using objective, subjective, and revealed-preference measures of quality. These results were consistent for multi-attribute decisions, single-attribute decisions. hypothetical decisions, and non-hypothetical decisions using both within-subjects and between-subjects designs. Individual differences among decision-makers did not show any consistent individual difference results, though decision-makers higher in numeracy appear to make better use of the cues available to them. In sum, decision-making appears to he aided by understanding the distribution of options, suggesting that it is occasionally wise to delay or "procrastinate" choice in order to gain an understanding of potential options when choosing.