The role of effort and accuracy in the adaptive use of decision processes is examined. A computer simulation using the concept of elementary information processes identified heuristic choice strategies that approximate the accuracy of normative procedures while saving substantial effort. However, no single heuristic did well across all task and context conditions. Of particular interest was the finding that under time constraints, several heuristics were more accurate than a truncated normative procedure. Using a process-tracing technique that monitors information acquisition behaviors, two experiments tested how closely the efficient processing patterns for a given decision problem identified by the simulation correspond to the actual processing behavior exhibited by subjects. People appear highly adaptive in responding to changes in the structure of the available alternatives and to the presence of time pressure. In general, actual behavior corresponded to the general patterns of efficient processing identified by the simulation. Finally, learning of effort and accuracy trade-offs are discussed.
Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognitionvol.
14, (July 01, 1988):