The relation between order effects and frequency learning in tactical decision making

Thinking and Reasoning 4 (2):123 – 145 (1998)
This article presents three experiments that examine the relation between order effects and frequency learning, with the following results. First, when frequencies of occurrence are presented as sequences of real events, base rates can be learned and used with a high degree of accuracy. However, conditional probabilities for multiple sequentially presented evidence items cannot be completely learned, due to the distortion of a recency order effect for actual decisions. Second, there is also a recency order effect for belief evaluations, which cannot be eliminated even if base rates are used correctly. Third, base rates learned in one environment can be transferred to another environment, but the transfer soon diminishes due to learning in the new environment. However, belief evaluations are not transferred from one environment to another The existing models of frequency learning cannot explain the order effect for actual decisions because they do not consider sequential information. The existing models of belief updating can explain both types of order effects, but they do not have any mechanisms for frequency learning. To account for the complete spectrum of frequency learning and order effects, we outline our initial effort in developing a unified model that integrates frequency learning and order effects.
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