The fox and the grapes : how physical constraints affect value based decision making

J. Gross, E. Wölbert, M. Strobel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

Abstract

One fundamental question in decision making research is how humans compute the values that guide their decisions. Recent studies showed that people assign higher value to goods that are closer to them, even when physical proximity should be irrelevant for the decision from a normative perspective. This phenomenon, however, seems reasonable from an evolutionary perspective. Most foraging decisions of animals involve the trade-off between the value that can be obtained and the associated effort of obtaining. Anticipated effort for physically obtaining a good could therefore affect the subjective value of this good. In this experiment, we test this hypothesis by letting participants state their subjective value for snack food while the effort that would be incurred when reaching for it was manipulated. Even though reaching was not required in the experiment, we find that willingness to pay was significantly lower when subjects wore heavy wristbands on their arms. Thus, when reaching was more difficult, items were perceived as less valuable. Importantly, this was only the case when items were physically in front of the participants but not when items were presented as text on a computer screen. Our results suggest automatic interactions of motor and valuation processes which are unexplored to this date and may account for irrational decisions that occur when reward is particularly easy to reach.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0127619
Number of pages18
JournalPLOS ONE
Volume10
Issue number6
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 10 Jun 2015

Keywords

  • WILLINGNESS-TO-PAY
  • MOTOR SYSTEM
  • ORBITOFRONTAL CORTEX
  • GEOGRAPHICAL SLANT
  • PARIETAL CORTEX
  • PERCEPTION
  • CHOICE
  • REACH
  • ENDOWMENT
  • SELECTION

Cite this