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Proc Biol Sci. 2016 Jan 13;283(1822). pii: 20151439. doi: 10.1098/rspb.2015.1439.

Irrational time allocation in decision-making.

Author information

1
Department of Economics and Laboratory for Social and Neural Systems Research, University of Zurich, Blümlisalpstrasse 10, Zurich 8006, Switzerland.
2
Department of Economics and Laboratory for Social and Neural Systems Research, University of Zurich, Blümlisalpstrasse 10, Zurich 8006, Switzerland Department of Economics and Department of Psychology, The Ohio State University, Columbus, OH 43210, USA krajbich.1@osu.edu.
3
Princeton Neuroscience Institute, Princeton University, Princeton, NJ 08544, USA.
4
Princeton Neuroscience Institute, Princeton University, Princeton, NJ 08544, USA Department of Psychology, Princeton University, Princeton, NJ 08544, USA.

Abstract

Time is an extremely valuable resource but little is known about the efficiency of time allocation in decision-making. Empirical evidence suggests that in many ecologically relevant situations, decision difficulty and the relative reward from making a correct choice, compared to an incorrect one, are inversely linked, implying that it is optimal to use relatively less time for difficult choice problems. This applies, in particular, to value-based choices, in which the relative reward from choosing the higher valued item shrinks as the values of the other options get closer to the best option and are thus more difficult to discriminate. Here, we experimentally show that people behave sub-optimally in such contexts. They do not respond to incentives that favour the allocation of time to choice problems in which the relative reward for choosing the best option is high; instead they spend too much time on problems in which the reward difference between the options is low. We demonstrate this by showing that it is possible to improve subjects' time allocation with a simple intervention that cuts them off when their decisions take too long. Thus, we provide a novel form of evidence that organisms systematically spend their valuable time in an inefficient way, and simultaneously offer a potential solution to the problem.

KEYWORDS:

decision-making; evidence accumulation; neuroeconomics; optimality; sequential-sampling model; speed-accuracy trade-off

PMID:
26763695
PMCID:
PMC4721081
DOI:
10.1098/rspb.2015.1439
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article

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