Individual Differences in the Use of Simplification Strategies in a Complex Decision-Making Task

James Onken*, Reid Hastie, William Revelle

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

61 Scopus citations


Decision time results were used to assess the strategies that 90 college undergraduates used in a complex decision-making task. Trend analyses revealed that the functions relating choice time to the number of choice alternatives in a set and the number of attributes comprising those alternatives contained linear (increasing) components. In addition, for a portion of the subjects, there was a quadratic effect of the number of attributes available to the decision maker on choice time, suggesting that these subjects adopted simplification strategies at high levels of task complexity. Reliable individual differences in these trend components were observed, consistent with individual differences in motivation and/or processing capacities. These individual differences were included in an information-processing model of decision behavior that captured the choice time data observed in this study. Subjects' ratings of apartments were used as a basis to assess the extent to which the use of simplification strategies resulted in preference reversals. Contrary to expectation, subjects whose choice times contained quadratic components demonstrated fewer preference reversals at high levels of information load.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)14-27
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 1985

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Behavioral Neuroscience


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