Decision-making under ambiguity is modulated by visual framing, but not by motor vs. non-motor context. Experiments and an information-theoretic ambiguity model

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Abstract

A number of recent studies have investigated differences in human choice behavior depending on task framing, especially comparing economic decision-making to choice behavior in equivalent sensorimotor tasks. Here we test whether decision-making under ambiguity exhibits effects of task framing in motor vs. non-motor context. In a first experiment, we designed an experience-based urn task with varying degrees of ambiguity and an equivalent motor task where subjects chose between hitting partially occluded targets. In a second experiment, we controlled for the different stimulus design in the two tasks by introducing an urn task with bar stimuli matching those in the motor task. We found ambiguity attitudes to be mainly influenced by stimulus design. In particular, we found that the same subjects tended to be ambiguity-preferring when choosing between ambiguous bar stimuli, but ambiguity-avoiding when choosing between ambiguous urn sample stimuli. In contrast, subjects' choice pattern was not affected by changing from a target hitting task to a nonmotor context when keeping the stimulus design unchanged. In both tasks subjects' choice behavior was continuously modulated by the degree of ambiguity. We show that this modulation of behavior can be explained by an information-theoretic model of ambiguity that generalizes Bayes-optimal decision-making by combining Bayesian inference with robust decision-making under model uncertainty. Our results demonstrate the benefits of information-theoretic models of decision-making under varying degrees of ambiguity for a given context, but also demonstrate the sensitivity of ambiguity attitudes across contexts that theoretical models struggle to explain.

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Grau-Moya, J., Ortega, P. A., & Braun, D. A. (2016). Decision-making under ambiguity is modulated by visual framing, but not by motor vs. non-motor context. Experiments and an information-theoretic ambiguity model. PLoS ONE, 11(4). https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0153179

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