Many of our daily decisions involve risk in one way or another. Sometimes, we enjoy the luxury of being offered summary descriptions of our options, possible consequences of our choices, and how likely these consequences are. Reading the package insert of a drug we consider taking is an instance where we can make decisions from description. In other cases, we must call on our own experience with similar situations and base our choices thereon, making decisions from experience. Most of the psychological research on decision making has employed the laboratory analogue of decisions from description, more specifically monetary gambles with complete information. This research has resulted in a large number of sophisticated theories, for example cumulative prospect theory. In the last couple of years, a number of investigations have turned to decisions from experience. These studies have revealed an often wide gap between description- and experience-based decisions. 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.
The studies we pursue in this project address major questions that have arisen in the course of our research on decisions from experience. We aim to inspect more closely the cognitive processes involved in experience-based decisions, specifically the different choice strategies people employ when confronted with this kind of choice as opposed to decisions from description. Furthermore, we investigate what other kinds of representation formats trigger the use of similar strategies and how strategies change across the lifespan. Finally, we explore a potential application of our findings to the field of medical decision making and examine the confidence people have when making decisions from experience.