Are choices based on conditional or conjunctive probabilities in a sequential risk-taking task?

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In this study, we examined participants’ choice behavior in a sequential risk-taking task. We were especially interested in the extent to which participants focus on the immediate next choice or consider the entire choice sequence. To do so, we inspected whether decisions were either based on conditional probabilities (e.g., being successful on the immediate next trial) or on conjunctive probabilities (of being successful several times in a row). The results of five experiments with a simplified nine-card Columbia Card Task and a CPT-model analysis show that participants’ choice behavior can be described best by a mixture of the two probability types. Specifically, for their first choice, the participants relied on conditional probabilities, whereas subsequent choices were based on conjunctive probabilities. This strategy occurred across different start conditions in which more or less cards were already presented face up. Consequently, the proportion of risky choices was substantially higher when participants started from a state with some cards facing up, compared with when they arrived at that state starting from the very beginning. The results, alternative accounts, and implications are discussed.

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Type of resources: Reading

Education level(s): Graduate / Professional

Primary user(s): student, teacher

Subject area(s): Psychology

Language(s): English