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Theory and Decision

, Volume 83, Issue 1, pp 37–59

First Online: 30 January 2017DOI: 10.1007-s11238-017-9590-3

Cite this article as: Mittone, L. & Papi, M. Theory Decis 2017 83: 37. doi:10.1007-s11238-017-9590-3


Over the years the psychological and economic literature on multi-attribute individual decision-making has focused its attention on examining what class of heuristics better describes subjects’ behaviour. In contrast, motivated by the proliferation of online choice platforms, we investigate whether inducing subjects to use holistic vs. characteristic-based search CBS procedures has an effect on the quality of their decision by proposing a between-subject experiment involving an innovative visual choice task. We find that encouraging subjects to use CBS heuristics as opposed to holistic ones makes them better off. We also examine how subjects’ performance is related with complexity, time pressure, and random choice by running simulations and link our results to the related literature.

KeywordsBetween-subject Characteristic-based search Heuristic Holistic Multi-attribute problem Simulations Electronic supplementary materialThe online version of this article doi:10.1007-s11238-017-9590-3 contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.

We would like to thank Marco Tecilla for excellent computer programming. We are extremely grateful to an anonymous referee for her-his support to our paper, the many insightful comments, and the valuable suggestions on the research program. We also thank Miguel Costa-Gomes, Paola Manzini, Ariel Rubinstein, the participants to the 2016 International Meeting on Experimental and Behavioral Social Sciences Rome, the seminar audiences at the universities of Aberdeen, St Andrews and Trento and the editor of this journal. Financial support from the University of Trento’s core funding is gratefully acknowledged. Any error is our own responsibility.

Autor: Luigi Mittone - Mauro Papi


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