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Better than expected: the influence of option expectations during decision-making

Rigoli, F. ORCID: 0000-0003-2233-934X & Dolan, R.J. (2018). Better than expected: the influence of option expectations during decision-making. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 285(1893), article number 20182472. doi: 10.1098/rspb.2018.2472


Our choices often arise from a consideration of options presented in a sequence (e.g. the products in a supermarket row). However, whether the precise sequential order of option presentation affects decision-making remains poorly understood. A recent model of choice proposes that, in a set of options presented sequentially, those that are better than expected will be perceived as more valuable, even when options are objectively equivalent within the set. Inspired by this proposal, we devised a novel decision-making task where we manipulated the order of option presentation together with expectations about option value. Even when we compared trials that were exactly equivalent except for option order, we observed a striking preference for options that were better than expected. Our findings show that expectations about options affect which option will be favoured within a sequence, an influence which is manifested as a preference for better-than-expected options. The findings have potential practical implications, as for example they may help policymakers in devising nudge strategies that rely on ad hoc option orders.

Publication Type: Article
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology
Departments: School of Health & Psychological Sciences > Psychology
SWORD Depositor:
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