The role of working memory in information acquisition and decision making: Lessons from the binary prediction task

Tim Rakow*, Ben R. Newell, Konstantina Zougkou

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

30 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

The effects of memory constraints upon information acquisition and decision making were examined in two experiments using binary prediction tasks, where participants observe outcomes for two options before deciding which one to bet upon. Our studies extend previous investigations to the case where participants learn the structure of the task through observation, but where information acquisition is separated from the task of prediction. Participants with higher cognitive capacity (larger memory span or higher intelligence) were more likely to adopt the "maximizing" strategy (always selecting the more frequent alternative). This finding conflicts with some recent investigations of similar tasks, a contrast that implies that the presence of feedback on choices may be important in determining the strategic actions of high-capacity individuals. Participants selecting the optimal strategy were in turn more efficient in their data acquisition. The behaviour of participants adopting suboptimal choice strategies was consistent with prediction based upon a "narrow window of experience"-that is, seeking to match the characteristics of small samples of observations.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1335-1360
Number of pages26
JournalThe Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology
Volume63
Issue number7
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2010

Keywords

  • Binary prediction
  • Choice
  • Information acquisition
  • Intelligence
  • Memory
  • Probability
  • Working memory

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