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: email@example.com
Reto Caluori | Universität Basel
Magnetic nanopropellers deliver genetic material to cells
08.05.2020 | Max-Planck-Institut für Intelligente Systeme
Development of new system for combatting COVID-19 that can be used for other viruses
08.04.2020 | University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston
An analysis of more than 200,000 spiral galaxies has revealed unexpected links between spin directions of galaxies, and the structure formed by these links...
Two prominent X-ray emission lines of highly charged iron have puzzled astrophysicists for decades: their measured and calculated brightness ratios always disagree. This hinders good determinations of plasma temperatures and densities. New, careful high-precision measurements, together with top-level calculations now exclude all hitherto proposed explanations for this discrepancy, and thus deepen the problem.
Hot astrophysical plasmas fill the intergalactic space, and brightly shine in stellar coronae, active galactic nuclei, and supernova remnants. They contain...
In living cells, enzymes drive biochemical metabolic processes enabling reactions to take place efficiently. It is this very ability which allows them to be used as catalysts in biotechnology, for example to create chemical products such as pharmaceutics. Researchers now identified an enzyme that, when illuminated with blue light, becomes catalytically active and initiates a reaction that was previously unknown in enzymatics. The study was published in "Nature Communications".
Enzymes: they are the central drivers for biochemical metabolic processes in every living cell, enabling reactions to take place efficiently. It is this very...
Early detection of tumors is extremely important in treating cancer. A new technique developed by researchers at the University of California, Davis offers a significant advance in using magnetic resonance imaging to pick out even very small tumors from normal tissue. The work is published May 25 in the journal Nature Nanotechnology.
researchers at the University of California, Davis offers a significant advance in using magnetic resonance imaging to pick out even very small tumors from...
Microelectronics as a key technology enables numerous innovations in the field of intelligent medical technology. The Fraunhofer Institute for Biomedical Engineering IBMT coordinates the BMBF cooperative project "I-call" realizing the first electronic system for ultrasound-based, safe and interference-resistant data transmission between implants in the human body.
When microelectronic systems are used for medical applications, they have to meet high requirements in terms of biocompatibility, reliability, energy...
19.05.2020 | Event News
07.04.2020 | Event News
06.04.2020 | Event News
03.06.2020 | Medical Engineering
03.06.2020 | Physics and Astronomy
03.06.2020 | Physics and Astronomy