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The deliberation time-sink: the rationality of gathering information

Evans, Laurel 2010. The deliberation time-sink: the rationality of gathering information. PhD Thesis, Cardiff University.

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A key feature of rationality is the use of an optimal (or normative) strategy, i.e. the strategy that is most likely to maximize the fulfillment of one's goals. Numerous such strategies have been explored in the literature across a wide range of problems, and many researchers have argued that humans approach several problems irrationally. Recently, researchers have begun to study individual differences in rational responding to these tasks, crucially discovering that both fluid intelligence and individual thinking styles - such as the Need for Cognition (NFC) - contribute uniquely to rational performance. Fluid intelligence is proposed as one's capacity for manipulating information in a slow, serial manner, while NFC plays a role in the engagement of such deliberative thinking. Although the problems studied typically benefit from this type of thinking, I explore whether there might be a problem for which deliberative thinking is non- normative: sampling-based choice, in which the participant must gather information for two options before deciding which is better. I first demonstrate in two experiments that higher NFC is related to spending more time at this task - without any significant gain in accuracy - and this relationship is separate from fluid intelligence. In subsequent experiments, I explore the potential reasons for this relationship. I search for, but find no evidence that it is due to ability failure, and clear evidence shows that it is not due to boredom. I find some evidence that those high in NFC tend to focus more on accuracy. Finally, I find that the NFC-time relationship is partially mediated by social desirability, i.e. the tendency to try to promote a positive impression of one's self. Overall, this excessive focus on accuracy, and the mediator role of social desirability, suggest NFC is related to irrational performance on this task.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Status: Unpublished
Schools: Psychology
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology
ISBN: 9781303219030
Date of First Compliant Deposit: 30 March 2016
Last Modified: 10 Jan 2018 01:56

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