Construction of Preferences by Constraint Satisfaction

7 Pages Posted: 30 Jul 2004

See all articles by Dan Simon

Dan Simon

University of Southern California Gould School of Law

Daniel C. Krawczyk

University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) - Department of Psychology

Keith J. Holyoak

University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) - Department of Psychology

Abstract

A central tenet of theories of rational choice is that people harbor a stable, well-defined and discernable order of preferences. A classic decision making approach based on rational choice assumptions is Multi-Attribute Decision Theory, which posits that the utility of a choice is equivalent to the weighted sum of the preferences of its constitutive attributes. Research challenging the axiom of preference invariance has shown that preferences are, to some degree, constructed by a variety of mostly contextual factors (e.g., Slovic, 1995; Tversky & Kahneman, 1986). The present studies seek to examine whether preferences are constructed also by the basic cognitive process that is understood to govern decision tasks involving multiple attributes-constraint satisfaction mechanisms. Consistent with principles of Gestalt psychology, the hypothesis is that strength of the preferences will shift towards stronger support for the emerging decision. The current studies were based on a choice between two job offers, and were designed to emulate a multi-attribute decision task. Preferences for the attributes of the offers were measured before, during, and after making the decision. The results show that over the course of making the decision, the attributes of the option that was eventually chosen came to be perceived as superior to the subjects' own initial evaluations, while the attributes of the rejected option came to be perceived as inferior. These shifts were triggered by a single attribute that decisively favored one option (Experiment 1), and occurred spontaneously in the absence of such a decisive attribute (Experiment 2). The shifts were also found to precede the point of decision. These findings are consistent with a constraint-satisfaction approach to decision making.

Suggested Citation

Simon, Dan and Krawczyk, Daniel C. and Holyoak, Keith J., Construction of Preferences by Constraint Satisfaction. Psychological Science, Vol. 15, No. 5, p. 331, May 2004, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=439981

Dan Simon (Contact Author)

University of Southern California Gould School of Law ( email )

699 Exposition Boulevard
Los Angeles, CA 90089
United States
213-740-0168 (Phone)
213-740-5502 (Fax)

HOME PAGE: http://weblaw.usc.edu/faculty/contactInfo.cfm?detailID=307

Daniel C. Krawczyk

University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) - Department of Psychology ( email )

1285 Franz Hall
Box 951563
Los Angeles, CA 90095-1563
United States

Keith J. Holyoak

University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) - Department of Psychology ( email )

1285 Franz Hall
Box 951563
Los Angeles, CA 90095-1563
United States
310-206-1646 (Phone)

Here is the Coronavirus
related research on SSRN

Paper statistics

Downloads
298
Abstract Views
3,715
rank
110,901
PlumX Metrics