Princeton University Library Catalog

The Statistics of Natural Tasks: How People Make Everyday Decisions in a Complex World

Dombrowski, Katya [Browse]
Senior thesis
Niv, Yael [Browse]
Botvinick, Matthew [Browse]
Princeton University. Department of Psychology [Browse]
Class year:
99 pages
Summary note:
When making decisions in complex environments, how can people separate what is important from what can be ignored? This study used the common task of choosing an item from a list to uncover whether there are specific strategies for solving this problem across both people and domains. Two types of everyday decisions, choosing food from a menu and choosing undergraduate courses from a list, were tested using online, as well as in-lab, experiments. The results revealed that participants tended to first narrow down their options based on broad information and then come to a final decision after looking at the short list of options in more detail. The results from this experiment also suggested that participants made these decisions based on only a few criteria at a time, where some criteria were significantly more important across participants. Therefore, despite the complexity and uniqueness of a given scenario, there may be common strategies used across people and domains in everyday decision-making. These processes may allow for less cognitive demand when making decisions, which could lead to a more efficient process overall. Further experiments could reveal whether or not these behavioral results correlate with similar neural networks, across both people and domains, as well.