Does causal knowledge help us be faster and more frugal in our decisions?

Abstract

One challenge that has to be addressed by the fast and frugal heuristics program is how people manage to select, from the abundance of cues that exist in the environment, those to rely on when making decisions. We hypothesize that causal knowledge helps people target particular cues and estimate their validities. This hypothesis was tested in three experiments. Results show that when causal information about some cues was available, participants preferred to search for these cues first and to base their decisions on them. When allowed to learn cue validities in addition to causal information, participants also became more frugal, made more accurate decisions, and were more precise in estimating cue validities than was a control group that did not receive causal information. These results can be attributed to the causal relation between the cues and the criterion, rather than to greater saliency of the causal cues. Overall, our results support the hypothesis that causal knowledge aids in the learning of cue validities and is treated as a meta-cue for identifying highly valid cues.

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Annika Wallin
Lund University

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