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Cue integration vs. exemplar-based reasoning in multi-attribute decisions from memory

Keywords: decision making , exemplar memory.NAKeywords

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Inferences about target variables can be achieved by deliberate integration of probabilistic cues or by retrieving similar cue-patterns (exemplars) from memory. In tasks with cue information presented in on-screen displays, rule-based strategies tend to dominate unless the abstraction of cue-target relations is unfeasible. This dominance has also been demonstrated --- surprisingly --- in experiments that demanded the retrieval of cue values from memory (M. Persson and J. Rieskamp, 2009). In three modified replications involving a fictitious disease, binary cue values were represented either by alternative symptoms (e.g., fever vs. hypothermia) or by symptom presence vs. absence (e.g., fever vs. no fever). The former representation might hinder cue abstraction. The cues were predictive of the severity of the disease, and participants had to infer in each trial who of two patients was sicker. Both experiments replicated the rule-dominance with present-absent cues but yielded higher percentages of exemplar-based strategies with alternative cues. The experiments demonstrate that a change in cue representation may induce a dramatic shift from rule-based to exemplar-based reasoning in formally identical tasks.


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