How short- and long-run aspirations impact search and choice in decisions from experience


To what extent do people adapt their information search policies and subsequent decisions to the long- and short-run consequences of choice environments? To address this question, we investigated exploration and exploitation policies in choice environments that involved single or multiple plays. We further compared behavior in these environments with behavior in the standard sampling paradigm. Frequently used in research on decision from experience, this paradigm does not explicitly implement the choice in terms of the short or long run. Results showed that people searched more in the multi-play environment than in the single-play environment. Moreover, the substantial search effort in the multi-play environment was conducive to choices consistent with expected value maximization, whereas the lesser search effort in the single-play environment was compatible with the goal of maximizing the chance of winning something. Furthermore, choice and search behaviors in the sampling paradigm predominantly echoed those observed in the single-play environment. This suggests that, when not instructed otherwise, participants in the sampling paradigm appear to favor search and choice strategies that embody short-run aspirations. Finally, the present findings challenge the revealed preference approach in decisions from experience, while also suggesting that information search may be an important and potentially even better signal of preference or aspirations than choice.

In Cognition