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Psychol Rev. 2008 Jan;115(1):281-90. doi: 10.1037/0033-295X.115.1.281.

Risky choice with heuristics: reply to Birnbaum (2008), Johnson, Schulte-Mecklenbeck, and Willemsen (2008), and Rieger and Wang (2008).

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  • 1Department of Psychology, Johannes Kepler University of Linz, Austria. eduard.brandstaetter@jku.at


E. Brandstätter, G. Gigerenzer, and R. Hertwig (2006) showed that the priority heuristic matches or outperforms modifications of expected utility theory in predicting choice in 4 diverse problem sets. M. H. Birnbaum (2008) argued that sets exist in which the opposite is true. The authors agree--but stress that all choice strategies have regions of good and bad performance. The accuracy of various strategies systematically depends on choice difficulty, which the authors consider a triggering variable underlying strategy selection. Agreeing with E. J. Johnson, M. Schulte-Mecklenbeck, and M. C. Willemsen (2008) that process (not "as-if") models need to be formulated, the authors show how quantitative predictions can be derived and test them. Finally, they demonstrate that many of Birnbaum's and M. O. Rieger and M. Wang's (2008) case studies championing their preferred models involved biased tests in which the priority heuristic predicted data, whereas the parameterized models were fitted to the same data. The authors propose an adaptive toolbox approach of risky choice, according to which people first seek a no-conflict solution before resorting to conflict-resolving strategies such as the priority heuristic.

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