Rigorously testing multialternative decision field theory against random utility models

  • Berkowitsch N
  • Scheibehenne B
  • Rieskamp J
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Abstract

Cognitive models of decision making aim to explain the process underlying observed choices. Here, we test a sequential sampling model of decision making, multialternative decision field theory (MDFT; Roe, Busemeyer, & Townsend, 2001), on empirical grounds and compare it against 2 established random utility models of choice: the probit and the logit model. Using a within-subject experimental design, participants in 2 studies repeatedly choose among sets of options (consumer products) described on several attributes. The results of Study 1 showed that all models predicted participants' choices equally well. In Study 2, in which the choice sets were explicitly designed to distinguish the models, MDFT had an advantage in predicting the observed choices. Study 2 further revealed the occurrence of multiple context effects within single participants, indicating an interdependent evaluation of choice options and correlations between different context effects. In sum, the results indicate that sequential sampling models can provide relevant insights into the cognitive process underlying preferential choices and thus can lead to better choice predictions.

Author-supplied keywords

  • Context effects
  • MDFT
  • Preferences
  • Process models
  • Random utility models

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