Reaching for the ideal: The role of ideal alternatives in decision-making
2007 (English)Conference paper (Other (popular science, discussion, etc.))
An experiment involving 45 psychology students as participants made it possible to differentiate between strategies used for quickly finding a promising alternative. It was hypothesised (a) that decision makers have an ideal alternative in mind when entering the decision process and (b) that the promising alternative is the one that is most similar to this ideal alternative. For this purpose, the participant’s ideal alternatives were first identified with the think-aloud method. Second, based on this ideal alternative, a computer application generated and presented five alternatives to the participants. Each alternative represented a strategy that individuals can use in order to make decisions. In order to make sure that the alternatives only differed in the applied strategy and not in attribute values, the five alternatives were equal in terms of multi-attribute utility. One alternative was most similar to the participant’s ideal alternative in terms of having shortest Euclidean distance. This alternative represented the strategy of similarity or distance judging. The second alternative had an agreement between the rank-order of attribute values and the ranks of the importance weights of the attributes in the presented alternative as in the ideal alternative. We showed theoretically that if an alternative has the same multi-attribute utility, a choice in line with this strategy is also equivalent to minimizing the weighted Euclidean distance to the ideal alternative. Two alternatives each applied a non-compensatory rule, focussing on the most positive aspects of the alternatives (maximin rule and the lexicographic rule). The last alternative did not apply any decision making rule. It was found that choices as well as preference ratings most often could be predicted from an alternative having an agreement between the rank-order of attribute values and the ranks of the importance weights of the attributes. Think aloud data gave additional support for this conclusion. These findings not only suggest the existence of an ideal alternative in a decision making situation. They also suggest the existence of a newly discovered decision making strategy based on a pattern matching heuristic. In this heuristic, the pattern of attribute weights and attribute values in a given alternative is matched to the corresponding pattern in the ideal alternative. Our data are compatible with the notion that the finding of a promising alternative is guided by this pattern matching heuristic.
Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Decision making, promising alternatives, ideal alternatives
IdentifiersURN: urn:nbn:se:su:diva-13290OAI: oai:DiVA.org:su-13290DiVA: diva2:179810