Decision by sampling

Cogn Psychol. 2006 Aug;53(1):1-26. doi: 10.1016/j.cogpsych.2005.10.003. Epub 2006 Jan 24.


We present a theory of decision by sampling (DbS) in which, in contrast with traditional models, there are no underlying psychoeconomic scales. Instead, we assume that an attribute's subjective value is constructed from a series of binary, ordinal comparisons to a sample of attribute values drawn from memory and is its rank within the sample. We assume that the sample reflects both the immediate distribution of attribute values from the current decision's context and also the background, real-world distribution of attribute values. DbS accounts for concave utility functions; losses looming larger than gains; hyperbolic temporal discounting; and the overestimation of small probabilities and the underestimation of large probabilities.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Decision Making*
  • Humans
  • Judgment
  • Memory
  • Sampling Studies
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • Time Factors