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The Description-Experience Gap: Its Robustness, Its Causes and Its Consequences

Applicant Hertwig Ralph
Number 126558
Funding scheme Project funding (Div. I-III)
Research institution Cognitive and Decision Sciences Fakultät für Psychologie Universität Basel
Institution of higher education University of Basel - BS
Main discipline Psychology
Start/End 01.03.2010 - 31.07.2013
Approved amount 214'316.00
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Keywords (5)

Risky Choice; Cognitive Heuristics; Decisions from Experience; heuristics; sampling

Lay Summary (English)

Lead
Lay summary
Most investigations into how people make decisions under risk have employed a simple experimental drosophila: monetary gambles involving explicitly stated outcomes and probabilities. People's choices under risk are thus typically decisions from descriptions. This research has led to the discovery of systematic patterns of preferences and a number of sophisticated descriptive theories, for example cumulative prospect theory, to account for them. The four-fold pattern of risk summarizes the observation that participants in decisions from description are risk averse for large-probability gains and small-probability losses. Interestingly, this is not always borne out in people's real-life decision making. Governments, for example, have found it difficult to encourage their citizens to take precautions (e.g., purchasing insurances) against small-probability losses such as floods or volcano eruptions (Hertwig, in press).One explanation for this discrepancy between theory and practice is that in many of their real-world decisions people do not get to enjoy the convenience of described outcomes and probabilities. For instance, when they decide whether to back up their computer's hard drive, cross a busy street (Hoffrage, Weber, Hertwig & Chase, 2003), or go out on a date, they make such decisions either in the void of complete ignorance or in the twilight of their own often limited experience with their real-world options. In the latter case, they make decisions from experience. Recent research has consistently documented that decisions from experience and decisions from description can lead to substantially different choices. This description-experience gap has important implications for our understanding of human decision-making processes as well as for public policy, as many choices we make in everyday life are decisions from experience.With this research proposal we pursue three major goals: We continue our work on the cognitive strategies that people employ to make decisions from experience and decisions from description. Second, we investigate the role of memory and, relatedly, age in decisions from experience. Finally, we connect research on decisions from experience with other fields, in particular, research on decisions in dynamically changing environments.
Direct link to Lay Summary Last update: 21.02.2013

Responsible applicant and co-applicants

Employees

Publications

Publication
DAT1 polymorphism is associated with risk taking in the Balloon Analogue Risk Task (BART)
Mata R, Hau R, Papassotiropoulos A, Hertwig R (2012), DAT1 polymorphism is associated with risk taking in the Balloon Analogue Risk Task (BART), in PLoS ONE, 7(6), e39135.
How choice ecology influences search in decisions from experience
Lejarraga T, Hertwig R, Gonzalez C (2012), How choice ecology influences search in decisions from experience, in Cognition, 124(3), 334-342.
The psychology and rationality of decisions from experience
Hertwig Ralph (2012), The psychology and rationality of decisions from experience, in Synthese, 187, 269-292.
Two distinct exploratory behaviors in decisions from experience: Comment on Gonzalez and Dutt (2011)
Hills TT, Hertwig R (2012), Two distinct exploratory behaviors in decisions from experience: Comment on Gonzalez and Dutt (2011), in Psychological Review, 119(4), 888-892.
Age differences in risky choice: a meta-analysis
Mata R, Josef AK, Samanez-Larkin GR, Hertwig R (2011), Age differences in risky choice: a meta-analysis, in DECISION MAKING OVER THE LIFE SPAN, 1235, 18-29.
Behavioral inconsistencies do not imply inconsistent strategies.
Hertwig Ralph, Gigerenzer Gerd (2011), Behavioral inconsistencies do not imply inconsistent strategies., in Frontiers in psychology, 2, 292-292.
Why Aren't We Smarter Already: Evolutionary Trade-Offs and Cognitive Enhancements
Hills T, Hertwig R (2011), Why Aren't We Smarter Already: Evolutionary Trade-Offs and Cognitive Enhancements, in CURRENT DIRECTIONS IN PSYCHOLOGICAL SCIENCE, 20(6), 373-377.
Information search in decisions from experience. Do our patterns of sampling foreshadow our decisions?
Hills Thomas T, Hertwig Ralph (2010), Information search in decisions from experience. Do our patterns of sampling foreshadow our decisions?, in Psychological science, 21(12), 1787-92.
Decisions from experience.
Hertwig R., Decisions from experience., in Keren G. (ed.), Blackwell, Oxford, UK..
The challenge of the description-experience gap to the communication of risks.
Hertwig Ralph, Frey Renato, The challenge of the description-experience gap to the communication of risks., in Cho H. (ed.), SAGE, Thousand Oaks, CA..

Scientific events

Active participation

Title Type of contribution Title of article or contribution Date Place Persons involved
JDM-Workshop for Young Researchers Talk given at a conference How to measure risk-taking in older adults? 01.07.2013 Berlin, Germany Frey Renato;
9th Triennial Choice Symposium 2013 Talk given at a conference Presentation on decisions from experience 01.06.2013 Noordwijk, Netherlands, Netherlands Hertwig Ralph;
25th Annual Convention 2013 of the Association for Psychological Science (APS) Talk given at a conference Presentation on decisions from experience 01.05.2013 Washington DC; USA, United States of America Hertwig Ralph;
Modeling aging in decisions from experience Talk given at a conference Conference of Experimental Psychologists (TEAP) 01.03.2013 Vienna, Austria Frey Renato;
Annual Conference 2013 on Accounting Research: Diversity within Unity Talk given at a conference Presentation on decisions from experience 01.02.2013 Frankfurt am Main, Deutschland, Germany Hertwig Ralph;
Annual assembly of the Leopoldina 2012 Talk given at a conference Presentation on decisions from experience 01.09.2012 Berlin, Deutschland, Germany Hertwig Ralph;
Annual Meeting of the Society for Judgment and Decision Making Poster Modeling search, learning, and choice in decisions from experience 01.09.2012 Minneapolis, United States of America Frey Renato;
JDM-Workshop for Young Researchers Talk given at a conference The impact of natural variation in affect on experience-based decisions 01.07.2012 Basel, Switzerland Frey Renato;
Colloquium Social psychology and Methodology, Department of Psychology Talk given at a conference Presentation on decisions from experience 01.07.2012 Freiburg, Deutschland, Germany Hertwig Ralph;
SNF Summerschool in Computational Modeling of Cognition Talk given at a conference Modeling learning and choice in decisions from experience 01.07.2012 Bergün, Switzerland Frey Renato;
8th Symposium for Dental Hygiene Talk given at a conference Presentation on decisions from experience 01.05.2012 Münster, Deutschland, Germany Hertwig Ralph;
Public seminar at the Department of Psychology Talk given at a conference Presentation on decisions from experience 01.04.2012 Uppsala, Sweden, Sweden Hertwig Ralph;
Conference of Experimental Psychologists (TEAP) Talk given at a conference The influence of emotional states on search and choice 01.04.2012 Mannheim, Germany Frey Renato;
Annual Meeting of the Society for Judgment and Decision Making Poster Decisions from experience in the wild: Comedy shows vs. hospitals 01.11.2011 Seattle, United States of America Frey Renato;
Lecture series “Hörsaal City” Talk given at a conference Presentation on decisions from experience 01.11.2011 Bochum, Deutschland, Germany Hertwig Ralph;
Seminar at the Nuffield Centre for Experimental Social Sciences Talk given at a conference Presentation on decisions from experience 01.10.2011 Oxford, UK, Great Britain and Northern Ireland Hertwig Ralph;
Invited Talk, Universitat Pompeu Fabra Individual talk Surrogate decision making: Do we have to trade off accuracy and procedural satisfaction? 01.09.2011 Barcelona, Spain Frey Renato;
Formal Epistemology meets experimental philosophy conference Talk given at a conference Presentation on decisions from experience 01.09.2011 Tilburg, Netherlands, Netherlands Hertwig Ralph;
Congress of the Swiss Psychological Society Talk given at a conference How to achieve procedural satisfaction and accuracy in surrogate decision making? 01.09.2011 Fribourg, Switzerland Frey Renato;
JDM-Workshop for Young Researchers Talk given at a conference The impact of affect on decisions from experience 01.08.2011 Bonn, Germany Frey Renato;
Conference for Subjective Probability, Utility, and Decision Making (SPUDM) Talk given at a conference The impact of affect on decisions from experience 01.08.2011 Kingston Upon Thames, Great Britain and Northern Ireland Frey Renato;
Economics-Psychology Workshop Talk given at a conference The role of affect on decisions from experience 01.08.2011 Basel, Switzerland Frey Renato;
Game theory and Society Talk given at a conference Presentation on decisions from experience 01.07.2011 Zürich, Schweiz, Switzerland Hertwig Ralph;
Conference of the Swiss Dental Association Talk given at a conference Presentation on decisions from experience 01.05.2011 Luzern, Schweiz, Switzerland Hertwig Ralph;
Conference of Experimental Psychologists (TEAP) Talk given at a conference The influence of affect on the information search in decisions from experience 01.03.2011 Halle, Germany Frey Renato;
Workshop on Experience, heuristics and choice: Prospects for bounded rationality Talk given at a conference Presentation on decisions from experience 01.11.2010 Pittsburgh, USA, United States of America Hertwig Ralph;
Workshop on Learning, decision making, and evolutionary theory: Can we bridge the gap? Talk given at a conference Presentation on decisions from experience 01.11.2010 Kfar Blum, Israel, Israel Hertwig Ralph;
Annual Meeting of the Society for Judgment and Decision Making Talk given at a conference The impact of mood on decisions from experience 01.11.2010 St. Louis, United States of America Frey Renato;
Colloquium of ‘Giessener Abendgespräche Kognition und Gehirn Talk given at a conference Presentation on decisions from experience 01.06.2010 Giessen, Deutschland, Germany Hertwig Ralph;
Symposium Knowledge and Action Talk given at a conference Presentation on decisions from experience 01.06.2010 Heidelberg, Deutschland, Germany Hertwig Ralph;
Symposium: Knowing One's Medical Fate in Advance Talk given at a conference Sharing a dreadful decision 01.06.2010 Basel, Switzerland Frey Renato;
Colloquium of the Tilburg Center for Logic and Philosophy of Science Talk given at a conference Presentation on decisions from experience 01.05.2010 Tilburg, Netherlands, Netherlands Hertwig Ralph;
Institute colloquium of the Max Planck Institute for Human Development Talk given at a conference Presentation on decisions from experience 01.03.2010 Berlin, Deutschland, Germany Hertwig Ralph;
Conference of Experimental Psychologists (TEAP) Talk given at a conference Modeling experience-based, sequential decisions and the effects of foregone payoffs 01.03.2010 Saarbrücken, Germany Frey Renato;


Awards

Title Year
Elected member of the Wilhelm-Wundt Society 2012
Fellow of the Association for Psychological Science (APS) 2011
Elected member of the German Academy of Sciences Leopoldina 2010

Associated projects

Number Title Start Funding scheme
118283 Decisions from experience: Models, tests and practical implications 01.10.2007 Project funding (Div. I-III)
107741 The cognitive underpinnings of decisions from experience 01.10.2005 Project funding (Div. I-III)

Abstract

Most investigations into how people make decisions under risk have employed a simple experimental drosophila: monetary gambles involving explicitly stated outcomes and probabilities. People’s choices under risk are thus typically decisions from descriptions. This research has led to the discovery of systematic patterns of preferences and a number of sophisticated descriptive theories, for example cumulative prospect theory, to account for them. The four-fold pattern of risk summarizes the observation that participants in decisions from description are risk averse for large-probability gains and small-probability losses. Interestingly, this is not always borne out in people’s real-life decision making. Governments, for example, have found it difficult to encourage their citizens to take precautions (e.g., purchasing insurances) against small-probability losses such as floods or volcano eruptions (Hertwig, in press).One explanation for this discrepancy between theory and practice is that in many of their real-world decisions people do not get to enjoy the convenience of described outcomes and probabilities. For instance, when they decide whether to back up their computer’s hard drive, cross a busy street (Hoffrage, Weber, Hertwig & Chase, 2003), or go out on a date, they make such decisions either in the void of complete ignorance or in the twilight of their own often limited experience with their real-world options. In the latter case, they make decisions from experience. Recent research has consistently documented that decisions from experience and decisions from description can lead to substantially different choices. This description-experience gap has important implications for our understanding of human decision-making processes as well as for public policy, as many choices we make in everyday life are decisions from experience.With this research proposal we pursue three major goals: We continue are work on the cognitive strategies that people employ to make decisions from experience and decisions from description. Second, we investigate the role of memory and, relatedly, age in decisions from experience. Finally, we connect research on decisions from experience with other fields, in particular, research on decisions in dynamically changing environments.
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