Faculty Scholarly Dissemination Grants


A Response Time Methodology For Identifying Mental Architecture In Choice Tasks




College of Liberal Arts and Sciences

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This project investigates how decision strategies are processed mentally. The current evidence so far has shown equivocal evidence concerning the nature of processes that could be used in decision making. One of the main limitations of contemporary approaches is that they are based on the analysis of choice preferences, rather than to utilize the methods designed for testing the presence of processes. To fill in the gap we introduce the reaction time methodology into the area of decision making, which was originally designed in the area of basic cognitive tasks. The systems factorial technology (SFT) is based on analyzing response times and allows identification of the order (serial vs. parallel) and amount (restricted versus exhaustive search) of processing. We applied SFT to a pair-comparison inference task in which participants had to decide which of the two objects scored higher on a criterion. Both properties allow for clear delineation between compensatory or non-compensatory decision strategies, as well as differentiation among strategies within each general class. In the classical pair comparison task, the SFT revealed distinct patterns of RT results: compensatory strategies were based on serial cue-by-cue processing, with possible termination on the first discriminating cue whereas non-compensatory decision strategies were based on parallel exhaustive processing of all cues. The SFT test and RT patterns allowed for fine-grained insights into the processing structure of decision strategies, which could not be achieved if choice outcomes were analyzed in isolation.

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