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Data from: Irrational time allocation in decision-making

Cite this dataset

Oud, Bastiaan et al. (2015). Data from: Irrational time allocation in decision-making [Dataset]. Dryad.


Time is an extremely valuable resource but little is known about the efficiency of time allocation in decision making. Empirical evidence suggests that in many ecologically relevant situations, decision difficulty and the relative reward from making a correct choice, compared to an incorrect one, are inversely linked, implying that it is optimal to use relatively less time for difficult choice problems. This applies, in particular, to value-based choices, in which the relative reward from choosing the higher-valued item shrinks as the values of the other options get closer to the best option and are thus more difficult to discriminate. Here, we experimentally show that people behave sub-optimally in such contexts. They do not respond to incentives that favor the allocation of time to choice problems in which the relative reward for choosing the best option is high; instead they spend too much time on problems in which the reward difference between the options is low. We demonstrate this by showing that it is possible to improve subjects’ time allocation with a simple intervention that cuts them off when their decisions take too long. Thus we provide a novel form of evidence that organisms systematically spend their valuable time in an inefficient way, and simultaneously offer a potential solution to the problem.

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