The role of experience in decisions from description

Ben R. Newell*, Tim Rakow

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

73 Citations (Scopus)


We extend research on the distinction between decisions from experience or description to situations in which people are given perfect information about outcome probabilities and have experience in an environment which matches the described information. Participants read a description of a die with more sides of one color than another (e.g., 4 black and 2 white sides) and were then asked either to predict the outcomes of rolls of the die or to select the best strategy for betting on the most likely outcome for each roll in a hypothetical game. Experience in the environment (trials), contingency (probability of the more likely alternative), and outcome feedback all had significant effects on the adoption of the optimal strategy (always predicting the most likely outcome), despite their normative irrelevance. Comparisons of experience with description-only conditions suggested that experience exerted an influence on performance if it was active - making predictions - but not if it was passive-observing outcomes. Experience had a negative initial impact on optimal responding: participants in description-only conditions selected the optimal strategy more often than those with 60 trials of prediction experience, a finding that reflects the seduction of "representative" responding.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1133-9
Number of pages7
JournalPsychonomic Bulletin & Review
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2007


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