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Cognitive Reflection and Decision Making

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  • Shane Frederick

Abstract

This paper introduces a three-item "Cognitive Reflection Test" (CRT) as a simple measure of one type of cognitive ability—the ability or disposition to reflect on a question and resist reporting the first response that comes to mind. The author will show that CRT scores are predictive of the types of choices that feature prominently in tests of decision-making theories, like expected utility theory and prospect theory. Indeed, the relation is sometimes so strong that the preferences themselves effectively function as expressions of cognitive ability—an empirical fact begging for a theoretical explanation. The author examines the relation between CRT scores and two important decision-making characteristics: time preference and risk preference. The CRT scores are then compared with other measures of cognitive ability or cognitive "style." The CRT scores exhibit considerable difference between men and women and the article explores how this relates to sex differences in time and risk preferences. The final section addresses the interpretation of correlations between cognitive abilities and decision-making characteristics.

Suggested Citation

  • Shane Frederick, 2005. "Cognitive Reflection and Decision Making," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 19(4), pages 25-42, Fall.
  • Handle: RePEc:aea:jecper:v:19:y:2005:i:4:p:25-42
    Note: DOI: 10.1257/089533005775196732
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    File URL: http://www.aeaweb.org/articles.php?doi=10.1257/089533005775196732
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    1. Kahneman, Daniel & Tversky, Amos, 1979. "Prospect Theory: An Analysis of Decision under Risk," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 47(2), pages 263-291, March.
    2. Matthew Rabin, 2000. "Risk Aversion and Expected-Utility Theory: A Calibration Theorem," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 68(5), pages 1281-1292, September.
    3. Shane Frederick & George Loewenstein & Ted O'Donoghue, 2002. "Time Discounting and Time Preference: A Critical Review," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 40(2), pages 351-401, June.
    4. Donkers, Bas & Melenberg, Bertrand & Van Soest, Arthur, 2001. "Estimating Risk Attitudes Using Lotteries: A Large Sample Approach," Journal of Risk and Uncertainty, Springer, vol. 22(2), pages 165-195, March.
    5. Stigler, George J & Becker, Gary S, 1977. "De Gustibus Non Est Disputandum," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 67(2), pages 76-90, March.
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