Phil 6.27.21

Learning to hesitate

  • We investigate how people make choices when they are unsure about the value of the options they face and have to decide whether to choose now or wait and acquire more information first. In an experiment, we find that participants deviate from optimal information acquisition in a systematic manner. They acquire too much information (when they should only collect little) or not enough (when they should collect a lot). We show that this pattern can be explained as naturally emerging from Fechner cognitive errors. Over time participants tend to learn to approximate the optimal strategy when information is relatively costly.
  • Overall, participants make their decisions too quickly (sample too little information) when information is relatively cheap. Inversely, they hesitate too long (sample too much information) when information is relatively expensive. They stop after approximately 9 draws in the $0.10 treatment, 7 draws in the $0.50 treatment and 4 draws in the $1 treatment. In the lower cost treatment, this average is below the theoretical prediction, and in the two other costs treatments it is above it. The average stopping time is significantly different from the theoretical one in each treatment (p<0.001 for a Wilcoxon signed-rank test in $0.10 and $1 treatments, p=0.0085 in the $0.50 treatment).


  • People are drawn to the easy and to the easiest side of the easy. But it is clear that we must hold ourselves to the difficult, as it is true for everything alive. Everything in nature grows and defends itself in its own way and against all opposition, straining from within and at any price, to become distinctively itself. It is good to be solitary, because solitude is difficult, and that a thing is difficult must be even more of a reason for us to undertake it.


  • Read whatever I finished writing on Friday and edit/fix -done!