Decisions, Decisions

Not What to Decide, but How

Major Choice Strategies

Ways to decide, from the simple to the complex

Rat Cho Un world

Reid Hastie and Robyn M. Dawes, in their classic Rational Choice in an Uncertain World (pp. 232-234), outline some "major choice strategies," stemming from several schools including the Heuristics and Biases, Adaptive Decision Maker, and Fast and Frugal research programs:

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Pictured: The author's somewhat annotated copy of Hastie & Dawes

Strategy: DOMINANCE


Mental Effort: LOW
Compensatory vs.Noncompensatory?: NON-COMPENSATORY
Whole vs. Part: ALTERNATIVE
Exhausive? YES

"Search for an alternative that is at least as good as every other alternative on all important attributes and choose it or find an alternative that is worse than any other alternative on all attributes and throw it out of the choice set."

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Strategy: ADDITIVE LINEAR (Multi-Attribute Utility Theory)

Mental Effort: V. HIGH
Compensatory vs. Noncompensatory?: COMPENSATORY
Whole vs. Part: ALTERNATIVE
Exhausive?: YES


"Weight all the attributes by their importance (with reference to the current goals of the decision maker). Then consider each alternative one at a time and calculate a global utility by valuing each attribute, weighting it by its importance, and adding up the weighted values."

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Strategy: ADDITIVE DIFFERENCE


Mental Effort: V. HIGH
Compensatory vs. Noncompensatory?: COMPENSATORY
Whole vs. Part: ATTRIBUTE
Exhausive?: YES

"Consider two alternatives at a time; compare attribute by attribute, estimating the difference between the two alternatives; and sum up the differences across the attributes to provide a single overall difference score across all attributes for that pair. Carry the winner of this comparison over to the next viable alternative and make the same comparison. At the end of this process, the best alternative is the one that has 'won' all the pairwise comparisons."


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Strategy: SATISFICING (CONJUNCTIVE RULE)


Mental Effort: LOW
Compensatory vs. Noncompensatory?: NON-COMPENSATORY
Whole vs. Part: ALTERNATIVE
Exhausive?: NO

"First set 'acceptability' cutoff points on all important attributes; then look for the first alternative that is at least as good as the cutoff values on all important attributes or use the strategy to select a set of good-enough alternatives (all above the cutoff points) for further consideration."

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Strategy: DISJUNCTIVE
RULE
Mental Effort: LOW
Compensatory vs. Noncompensatory?: NON-COMPENSATORY
Whole vs. Part: ALTERNATIVE
Exhausive?: NO

"First, set 'acceptability' cutoff points on the important attributes; then look for the first alternative that is at least as good as the cutoff value on any attribute or use the strategy to select a set of alternatives that are very good on at least one dimension for further consideration."

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Strategy: LEXICOGRAPHIC / TAKE-THE-BEST


Mental Effort: MEDIUM
Compensatory vs. Noncompensatory: NON-COMPENSATORY
Whole vs. Part: ATTRIBUTE
Exhausive?: NO

"First, review the attributes and pick the one most important attribute; then choose the beest alternative on that attribute. If there are several "winners" on the first attribute, go on to the next most important attribute and pick the best remaining alternative(s) on that attribute. Repeat until only one alternative is left ... [Similar to the] take-the-best fast-and-frugal heuristic (successful in choice and judgment environments that reflect the distributions of alternatives and attribute values in real, everyday environments). The only adjustment to our description would be to substitute the word 'validity' (predictive accuracy) for 'importance'; order the attributes considered by their past validity in discriminating between good and bad alternatives."

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Strategy: ELIMINATION BY ASPECTS


Mental Effort: MEDIUM
Compensatory vs. Noncompensatory?: NON-COMPENSATORY
Whole vs. Part: ATTRIBUTE
Exhausive?: NO

"Pick the first attribute that is salient and set a cutoff 'acceptability' point on that attribute. Throw out all alternatives that are below the cutoff on that one attribute. Then pick the next most attention-getting attribute, set an 'acceptability' cutoff on that attribute, and again throw out all alternatives that are below the cutoff. Repeat until only one alternative is left."

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Strategy: RECOGNITION HEURISTIC
Mental Effort: LOW
Compensatory vs. Noncompensatory?: NON-COMPENSATORY
Whole vs. Part: ALTERNATIVE
Exhausive?: NO

"In some choices, people are so poorly informed about the alternatives that they simply rely on 'name recognition.' They choose the first alternative that they recognize ... in many realistic choices and judgments the 'fast and frugal' recognition choice heuristic behaves surprisingly well."

 

 

Source: Hastie, Reid & Dawes, Robyn M. (2001). Rational choice in an uncertain world. Sage: Thousand Oaks, CA, pp. 232-234.

Dan Goldstein is Assistant Professor at London Business School and Principal Research Scientist at Yahoo! Research.

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