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Psychon Bull Rev. 2012 Apr;19(2):349-56. doi: 10.3758/s13423-011-0184-8.

Sizing up information distortion: quantifying its effect on the subjective values of choice options.

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Department of Psychology, Ohio State University, 1835 Neil Avenue, Columbus, OH 43210, USA.


When choosing between options, people often distort new information in a direction that favors their developing preference. Such information distortion is widespread and robust, but less is known about the magnitude of its effects. In particular, research has not quantified the effects of distortion relative to the values of the choice options. In two experiments, we manipulated participants' initial preferences in choices between risky three-outcome monetary gambles (win, lose, or neither) by varying the order of five information items (e.g., amount to win, chance of losing). In Experiment 1 (N = 397), the effect of initial information on gambles' certainty equivalents (subjective values) was mediated by the distortion of later information. The indirect effect on the difference between gambles' certainty equivalents averaged 27% of the gambles' mean expected value. In Experiment 2 (N = 791), we increased the difference between gambles on a later information item to overcome the effect of initial information on participants' choices. The required change averaged 31% of the gambles' mean expected value. We conclude that the effects of information distortion can be substantial.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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