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Front Psychol. 2015 May 7;6:532. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2015.00532. eCollection 2015.

Cognitive reflection vs. calculation in decision making.

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1
Department of Psychology, The Ohio State University Columbus, OH, USA.

Abstract

Scores on the three-item Cognitive Reflection Test (CRT) have been linked with dual-system theory and normative decision making (Frederick, 2005). In particular, the CRT is thought to measure monitoring of System 1 intuitions such that, if cognitive reflection is high enough, intuitive errors will be detected and the problem will be solved. However, CRT items also require numeric ability to be answered correctly and it is unclear how much numeric ability vs. cognitive reflection contributes to better decision making. In two studies, CRT responses were used to calculate Cognitive Reflection and numeric ability; a numeracy scale was also administered. Numeric ability, measured on the CRT or the numeracy scale, accounted for the CRT's ability to predict more normative decisions (a subscale of decision-making competence, incentivized measures of impatient and risk-averse choice, and self-reported financial outcomes); Cognitive Reflection contributed no independent predictive power. Results were similar whether the two abilities were modeled (Study 1) or calculated using proportions (Studies 1 and 2). These findings demonstrate numeric ability as a robust predictor of superior decision making across multiple tasks and outcomes. They also indicate that correlations of decision performance with the CRT are insufficient evidence to implicate overriding intuitions in the decision-making biases and outcomes we examined. Numeric ability appears to be the key mechanism instead.

KEYWORDS:

Cognitive Reflection Test; biases; dual-system theory; financial outcomes; individual differences; numeracy

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