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Response time models separate single- and dual-process accounts of memory-based decisions

Mr. Peter Maximilian Kraemer
University of Basel ~ Faculty of Psychology
Dr. Laura Fontanesi
University of Basel ~ Psychology
Mikhail S Spektor
Universitat Pompeu Fabra, Barcelona; Barcelona Graduate School of Economics
Sebastian Gluth
University of Basel ~ Department of Psychology

Human decisions often deviate from economic rationality and are influenced by cognitive biases. One such bias is thememory bias according to which people prefer choice options they have a better memory of—even when the options’ utilities arecomparatively low. Although this phenomenon is well supported empirically, its cognitive foundation remains elusive. Here we test two conceivable computational accounts of the memory bias against each other. On the one hand, a single-process account explains the memory bias by assuming a single biased evidence-accumulation process in favor of remembered options. On the contrary, a dual-process account posits that some decisions are driven by a purely memory-driven process and others by a utility-maximizing one. We show that both accounts are indistinguishable based on choices alone as they make similar predictions with respect to the memory bias. However, they make qualitatively different predictions about response times. We tested the qualitative and quantitative predictions of both accounts on behavioral data from a memory-based decision-making task. Our results show that a single-process account provides a better account of the data, both qualitatively and quantitatively. In addition to deepening our understanding of memory-based decision making, our study provides an example of how to rigorously compare single- versus dual-process models using empirical data and hierarchical Bayesian estimation methods.



dual process models
value-based decision making
episodic memory
diffusion models


Decision Making
Reaction Times
Bayesian Modeling
Memory Models
Accumulator/Diffusion models
Great talk! Last updated 2 months ago

Great presentation and project Peter. This is an excellent example of how RTs can distinguish between two models that otherwise yield very similar or identical choice predictions.

Prof. Ian Krajbich 1 comment
Some studies to highlight Last updated 2 months ago

In the Q&A session, I briefly mentioned a couple of related papers which I'd like to note down here. 1) Mechera-Ostrovsky & Gluth, 2018: Beliefs about memory partially drive the memory bias on choice 2) Li & Epley, 2009: Serial position effects on choice 3) Bhatia, 2018...

Mr. Peter Maximilian Kraemer 0 comments

Very nice work! I really love how you developed a precise implementation of the dual process theory. Dual process theory would seem to be a very good explanation of the results. Do you have an idea of why it does not fit the data very well? Do you think there are large individual differences in how much people rely on one or the other?

Marieke Van Vugt 1 comment