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Psychol Sci. 2010 Jul;21(7):960-9. doi: 10.1177/0956797610372637. Epub 2010 Jun 4.

Experience matters: information acquisition optimizes probability gain.

Author information

1
Max Planck Institute for Human Development, Berlin, Germany. jnelson@salk.edu

Abstract

Deciding which piece of information to acquire or attend to is fundamental to perception, categorization, medical diagnosis, and scientific inference. Four statistical theories of the value of information-information gain, Kullback-Liebler distance, probability gain (error minimization), and impact-are equally consistent with extant data on human information acquisition. Three experiments, designed via computer optimization to be maximally informative, tested which of these theories best describes human information search. Experiment 1, which used natural sampling and experience-based learning to convey environmental probabilities, found that probability gain explained subjects' information search better than the other statistical theories or the probability-of-certainty heuristic. Experiments 1 and 2 found that subjects behaved differently when the standard method of verbally presented summary statistics (rather than experience-based learning) was used to convey environmental probabilities. Experiment 3 found that subjects' preference for probability gain is robust, suggesting that the other models contribute little to subjects' search behavior.

PMID:
20525915
PMCID:
PMC2926803
DOI:
10.1177/0956797610372637
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article
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