Toward an attentional turn in research on risky choice

Frontiers in Psychology 13 (2022)
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Abstract

For a long time, the dominant approach to studying decision making under risk has been to use psychoeconomic functions to account for how behavior deviates from the normative prescriptions of expected value maximization. While this neo-Bernoullian tradition has advanced the field in various ways—such as identifying seminal phenomena of risky choice —it contains a major shortcoming: Psychoeconomic curves are mute with regard to the cognitive mechanisms underlying risky choice. This neglect of the mechanisms both limits the explanatory value of neo-Bernoullian models and fails to provide guidance for designing effective interventions to improve decision making. Here we showcase a recent “attentional turn” in research on risk choice that elaborates how deviations from normative prescriptions can result from imbalances in attention allocation and that thus promises to overcome the challenges of the neo-Bernoullian tradition. We argue that a comprehensive understanding of preference formation in risky choice must provide an account on a mechanistic level, and we delineate directions in which existing theories that rely on attentional processes may be extended to achieve this objective.

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