The decision to check in multialternative choices and limited sensitivity to default

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Given the rapid proliferation of smartphone applications and data aggregation websites, in many situations people can use decision aids to guide their choices. For example, they may consider whether to use a navigation device to check the fastest route or whether to use a price comparison website to find the cheapest deal. In what circumstances will subjects use a costly comparison decision aid (which I refer to as “checking”) to choose for them? In six studies, I investigate the impact of the number of available alternatives and checking's attractiveness on the decision to check. While at first increasing the attractiveness of checking led to higher checking rates, a further increase in the number of available alternatives (and thus checking's attractiveness) did not increase the checking rate. Surprisingly, even when checking had a 40% higher expected value compared with not checking, the observed checking rate was below 45%, contrary to risk and ambiguity aversion predictions. Furthermore, labeling the checking alternative as the default had no impact on its choice rate. I find large individual differences in decisions to check. Surprisingly, subjects' initial decisions had high predictive power over their subsequent checking rates, even after 100 trials with full feedback. I propose two simple learning models that capture well the aggregated results.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)643-656
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Behavioral Decision Making
Issue number5
StatePublished - Dec 2020

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.


  • checking decisions
  • decisions from experience
  • inertia
  • information search
  • two-sample

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Decision Sciences
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Applied Psychology
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Strategy and Management


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