Failure of intuition when presented with a choice between investing in a single goal or splitting resources between two goals

Alasdair D. F. Clarke, Amelia R. Hunt

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

12 Citations (Scopus)
9 Downloads (Pure)

Abstract

In a series of related experiments, we asked people to choose whether to split their attention between two equally likely potential tasks or to prioritize one task at the expense of the other. In such a choice, when the tasks are easy, the best strategy is to prepare for both of them. As difficulty increases beyond the point at which people can perform both tasks accurately, they should switch strategy and focus on one task at the expense of the other. Across three very different tasks (target detection, throwing, and memory), none of the participants switched their strategy at the correct point. Moreover, the majority consistently failed to modify their strategy in response to changes in task difficulty. This failure may have been related to uncertainty about their own ability, because in a version of the experiment in which there was no uncertainty, participants uniformly switched at an optimal point.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)64-74
Number of pages11
JournalPsychological Science
Volume27
Issue number1
Early online date8 Dec 2015
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2016

Keywords

  • decision making
  • optimal behavior
  • open data

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