Influence of memory processes on choice-consistency

R Soc Open Sci. 2021 Oct 20;8(10):200308. doi: 10.1098/rsos.200308. eCollection 2021 Oct.


Choice-consistency is considered a hallmark of rational value-based choice. However, because the cognitive apparatus supporting decision-making is imperfect, real decision-makers often show some degree of choice inconsistency. Cognitive models are necessary to complement idealized choice axioms with attention, perception and memory processes. Specifically, compelling theoretical work suggests that the (imperfect) retention of choice-relevant memories might be important for choice-consistency, but this hypothesis has not been tested directly. We used a novel multi-attribute visual choice paradigm to experimentally test the influence of memory retrieval of exemplars on choice-consistency. Our manipulation check confirmed that our retention interval manipulation successfully reduced memory representation strength. Given this, we found strong evidence against our hypothesis that choice-consistency decreases with increasing retention time. However, quality controls indicated that the choice-consistency of our participants was non-discernable from random behaviour. In addition, an exploratory analysis showed essentially no test-retest reliability of choice-consistency between two observations. Taken together, this suggests the presence of a floor effect in our data and, thus, low data quality for conclusively evaluating our hypotheses. Further exploration tentatively suggested a high difficulty of discriminating between the choice objects driving this floor effect.

Keywords: choice-consistency; cognitive modelling; memory; revealed preference.