Princeton University Library Catalog

Demand Avoidance Does Not Predict Heuristic Usage: Implications for the Study of Heuristics, Effort Costs and Self-Control

Cody, Victoria [Browse]
Senior thesis
Botvinick, Matthew [Browse]
Hasson, Uri [Browse]
Princeton University. Department of Psychology [Browse]
Class year:
90 pages
Restrictions note:
Walk-in Access. This thesis can only be viewed on computer terminals at the Mudd Manuscript Library.
Summary note:
Behavioral and neuroscientific work has shown that there are costs associated with cognitive effort. One domain in which effort costs have recently been shown to play a role is self-control. This study aims to address the hypothesis that effort costs also play a role in the domain of heuristic usage. Researchers of heuristics and cognitive biases have proposed that heuristics are strategies people rely on to reduce the cognitive effort associated with certain tasks, but this claim has not yet been assessed experimentally. Inappropriate use of heuristics often produces irrational biases, which form the basis for a range of large-scale social problems (such as implicit racism and inefficient resource allocation). This work is part of a larger project to understand the ramifications of behavior as shaped by cognitive effort costs. Two tasks were administered to a sample of 75 University students: 1) the Demand Selection Task (DST), a measure of demand avoidance, and 2) a heuristics battery consisting of questions testing for cognitive bias and usage of common heuristics, and including the Cognitive Reflection Task (CRT), which assesses a reflective ability to suppress intuitive, but incorrect responses. A negative correlation between demand avoidance and performance on the heuristics battery was expected; such a finding would square with the previous work on the DST and the CRT. In contrast to the hypothesis, no significant correlation was observed between demand avoidance and the heuristics battery. The findings cast doubt on the theory that heuristics exist for the purpose of reducing cognitive effort, and more generally highlight the complex interactions of demand avoidance, heuristic usage, self-control, time preferences and intelligence.