Eyes on the Prize? Evidence of Diminishing Attention to Experienced and Foregone Outcomes in Repeated Experiential Choice

Nathaniel J S Ashby*, Tim Rakow

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Citations (Scopus)
216 Downloads (Pure)


Recently, there has been increased interest in decisions-from-experience (where decision makers learn from observing the outcomes of previous choices), which provide valuable insights into the learning and preference construction processes underlying many daily decisions. Several process models have been developed to capture these processes, and while such models often fit the data well, many assume that the decision maker is a vigilant observer, processing each outcome. In two studies, we provide a critical test of this assumption using eye tracking to record directed visual attention when participants choose repeatedly among two options, each time being shown the outcome for their chosen option and for the foregone option. Consistently, we find that the vigilance assumption is not supported, with decision makers often not attending to outcome information. Moreover, (in)attention to outcomes is predictable, with vigilance decreasing as more choices are made, and being greater for obtained than for foregone outcomes, and when options deliver only gains as opposed to losses or a mixture of gains and losses. Furthermore, we find that this variation in attentional allocation plays a central role in the apparent indecisiveness (inconsistency) in choice, with increased attention to foregone outcomes predicting switches to that option on the next choice. Together, these findings highlight the value of eye tracking in investigations of decisions-from-experience, providing novel insight into the cognitive processes underlying them.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)183-193
JournalJournal of Behavioral Decision Making
Issue number2-3
Early online date19 Mar 2015
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2016


  • Attention
  • Decisions-from-experience
  • Eye tracking
  • Foregone outcomes
  • Loss aversion
  • Risky choice


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