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How to study cognitive decision algorithms: The case of the priority heuristic

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  • Klaus Fiedler

Abstract

Although the priority heuristic (PH) is conceived as a cognitive-process model, some of its critical process assumptions remain to be tested. The PH makes very strong ordinal and quantitative assumptions about the strictly sequential, non-compensatory use of three cues in choices between lotteries: (1) the difference between worst outcomes, (2) the difference in worst-case probabilities, and (3) the best outcome that can be obtained. These aspects were manipulated orthogonally in the present experiment. No support was found for the PH. Although the main effect of the primary worst-outcome manipulation was significant, it came along with other effects that the PH excludes. A strong effect of the secondary manipulation of worst-outcome probabilities was not confined to small differences in worst-outcomes; it was actually stronger for large worst-outcome differences. Overall winning probabilities that the PH ignores exerted a systematic influence. The overall rate of choices correctly predicted by the PH was close to chance, although high inter-judge agreement reflected systematic responding. These findings raise fundamental questions about the theoretical status of heuristics as fixed modules.

Suggested Citation

  • Klaus Fiedler, 2010. "How to study cognitive decision algorithms: The case of the priority heuristic," Judgment and Decision Making, Society for Judgment and Decision Making, vol. 5(1), pages 21-32, February.
  • Handle: RePEc:jdm:journl:v:5:y:2010:i:1:p:21-32
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Tversky, Amos & Kahneman, Daniel, 1992. "Advances in Prospect Theory: Cumulative Representation of Uncertainty," Journal of Risk and Uncertainty, Springer, vol. 5(4), pages 297-323, October.
    2. Rosenthal,Robert, 2009. "Judgment Studies," Cambridge Books, Cambridge University Press, number 9780521101479, May.
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    Cited by:

    1. Michael H. Birnbaum & Jeffrey P. Bahra, 2012. "Separating response variability from structural inconsistency to test models of risky decision making," Judgment and Decision Making, Society for Judgment and Decision Making, vol. 7(4), pages 402-426, July.
    2. Michael H. Birnbaum & Jeffrey P. Bahra, 2012. "Testing transitivity of preferences using linked designs," Judgment and Decision Making, Society for Judgment and Decision Making, vol. 7(5), pages 524-567, September.
    3. Konstantinos V. Katsikopoulos & Cherng-Horng (Dan) Lan, 2011. "Herbert Simon’s spell on judgment and decision making," Judgment and Decision Making, Society for Judgment and Decision Making, vol. 6(8), pages 722-732, December.
    4. Morten Moshagen & Benjamin E. Hilbig, 2011. "Methodological notes on model comparisons and strategy classification: A falsificationist proposition," Judgment and Decision Making, Society for Judgment and Decision Making, vol. 6(8), pages 814-820, December.
    5. Alós-Ferrer, Carlos & Strack, Fritz, 2014. "From dual processes to multiple selves: Implications for economic behavior," Journal of Economic Psychology, Elsevier, vol. 41(C), pages 1-11.
    6. Clintin P. Davis-Stober & Nicholas Brown, 2011. "A shift in strategy or "error"? Strategy classification over multiple stochastic specifications," Judgment and Decision Making, Society for Judgment and Decision Making, vol. 6(8), pages 800-813, December.
    7. Rudiger F. Pohl, 2011. "On the use of recognition in inferential decision making: An overview of the debate," Judgment and Decision Making, Society for Judgment and Decision Making, vol. 6(5), pages 423-438, July.
    8. Andreas Glockner & Tilmann Betsch, 2011. "The Empirical content of theories in judgment and decision making: Shortcomings and remedies," Judgment and Decision Making, Society for Judgment and Decision Making, vol. 6(8), pages 711-721, December.
    9. Marc Jekel & Susann Fiedler & Andreas Glockner, 2011. "Diagnostic task selection for strategy classification in judgment and decision making," Judgment and Decision Making, Society for Judgment and Decision Making, vol. 6(8), pages 782-799, December.
    10. Andreas Glockner & Benjamin E. Hilbig, 2011. "Editorial: Methodology in judgment and decision making research," Judgment and Decision Making, Society for Judgment and Decision Making, vol. 6(8), pages 705-710, December.

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