The decisions we make are influenced by other possibilities that we did not choose. At the same time, the options we missed out on determine our satisfaction with the outcomes of situations we were unable to control. Psychologists from the University of Basel conducted two experiments: first, they studied the decision-making behavior of students and, second, they measured brain activity and satisfaction when a set of possibilities is supplemented with another alternative. The Journal of Neuroscience has published the results.
Classical economic models state that when faced with a decision, we always choose the option that is of greatest benefit to us, regardless of the benefits of other options. However, the latter assumption contradicts the much-researched «attraction effect». This leads us to make different decisions depending on how our situation appears at the time of the decision.
If, when buying a camera, we are presented with a choice between an expensive, high-quality model and a cheap model of low quality, the addition of a third, unattractive camera – similar in quality to the expensive camera but with a higher price – leads us to choose the expensive model. Various studies show that people choose the option from the original selection that is clearly better than the third, additional option.
Same options – different decisions
Psychologists from the University of Basel have studied the attraction effect in connection with intertemporal choices for the first time. In our everyday lives, we are frequently confronted with decisions of this kind that require us to choose whether we prefer a small advantage as soon as possible or would rather wait longer for a greater advantage (an example is the conflict between the immediate enjoyment of a piece of cake and a long-term diet).
In the study, a group of students solved numerous decision-making tasks on a computer. They were faced with a conflict between receipt of smaller amounts of money in a short time or larger sums at a later point in time. In order to create real decision-making situations, a selected sum of money was transferred to the students’ bank accounts at the appropriate point in time. This experiment allowed the researchers to demonstrate the attraction effect: although the subjects were essentially making a choice between the same two alternatives, their decisions were influenced by the presence of a third, irrelevant option.
Measuring satisfaction and effect in the brain’s reward system
A second group of students saw the same combinations of money and time while an MRI scanner took a scan of their brain. The subjects were not able to make decisions actively; rather, an option was assigned to them at random. After the MRI scan, they reported their satisfaction with the outcome of the random selection.
Here, too, the subjects were susceptible to the attraction effect, reporting different levels of satisfaction with the outcome, depending on the options they were shown. In subjects who were particularly satisfied, and therefore subject to a strong attraction effect, the researchers observed through the scan an above-average effect in the brain’s reward system.
The results of this research are based on a combination of different branches of science. «Our study spans the interface between neuroscience, psychology and economics», explains Prof. Sebastian Gluth, lead author of the study. «The results therefore invite further research, but they are also discussed, for example, in terms of their practical applications in marketing.»
Sebastian Gluth, Jared M. Hotaling, Jörg Rieskamp
The Attraction Effect Modulates Reward Prediction Errors and Intertemporal Choices
The Journal of Neuroscience (2017), doi: 10.1523/jneurosci.2532-16.2017
Prof. Dr. Sebastian Gluth, University of Basel, Faculty of Psychology, Tel. +41 61 207 06 06, email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Reto Caluori | Universität Basel
Decoding the regulation of cell survival - A major step towards preventing neurons from dying
04.10.2018 | DFG-Forschungszentrum für Regenerative Therapien TU Dresden
New Cluster of Excellence “Centre for Tactile Internet with Human-in-the-Loop” (CeTI)
28.09.2018 | Technische Universität Dresden
Researchers at the University of New Hampshire have captured a difficult-to-view singular event involving "magnetic reconnection"--the process by which sparse particles and energy around Earth collide producing a quick but mighty explosion--in the Earth's magnetotail, the magnetic environment that trails behind the planet.
Magnetic reconnection has remained a bit of a mystery to scientists. They know it exists and have documented the effects that the energy explosions can...
Biochips have been developed at TU Wien (Vienna), on which tissue can be produced and examined. This allows supplying the tissue with different substances in a very controlled way.
Cultivating human cells in the Petri dish is not a big challenge today. Producing artificial tissue, however, permeated by fine blood vessels, is a much more...
Faster and secure data communication: This is the goal of a new joint project involving physicists from the University of Würzburg. The German Federal Ministry of Education and Research funds the project with 14.8 million euro.
In our digital world data security and secure communication are becoming more and more important. Quantum communication is a promising approach to achieve...
On Saturday, 10 November 2018, the research icebreaker Polarstern will leave its homeport of Bremerhaven, bound for Cape Town, South Africa.
When choosing materials to make something, trade-offs need to be made between a host of properties, such as thickness, stiffness and weight. Depending on the application in question, finding just the right balance is the difference between success and failure
Now, a team of Penn Engineers has demonstrated a new material they call "nanocardboard," an ultrathin equivalent of corrugated paper cardboard. A square...
09.11.2018 | Event News
06.11.2018 | Event News
23.10.2018 | Event News
16.11.2018 | Health and Medicine
16.11.2018 | Life Sciences
16.11.2018 | Life Sciences