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Decision consistent information, i.e., a preference for information

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Decision making
has been a topic of interest for a lot of fields be it cognitive psychology or behavioral
economics. Researchers have long been investigating how decision making process
takes places, what are fallacies or biases that individuals unknowingly tend to
make. Consequently they’ve also tried to study the processes that would enhance
the decision making ability in humans. They’ve done this by analyzing the
situational factors and psychological processes that reduce the quality of
decisions. Decision making is a process that allows us to choose among various
alternatives on the basis of our beliefs and past experience. It is also a process
of selecting a course of action/option among other alternatives that best
serves our purpose by weighing its pros and cons.  Often there are times when the information
presented to us is diplomatic and we are not sure of our decision. Situations
like these mostly lead us to make biases or commit fallacies unknowingly, which
in turn reduces the quality of our decision.

One such process
is studied by researchers is known as “confirmatory information processing”
where individuals comprises a tendency to actively seek  and/or evaluate  decision-relevant information in such that
decision-consistent information is systematically preferred over
decision-inconsistent information. Previous research has revealed that the
tendency to prefer position-consistent over position-inconsistent information
has been demonstrated in a variety of domains, such as individual (e.g., Fischer et al, 2005) and group decision, stereotypes
(Johnston, 1996).  Confirmatory information
processing can be explained by dissonance theory which assumes that subsequent
to a preliminary or final decision, individuals experience cognitive dissonance
because of the negative implications of the chosen decision alternative, and
the positive implications of the non-chosen one. Because dissonance is
experienced as aversive arousal, people are motivated to reduce this unpleasant
state. One way to reduce dissonance is through selective exposure to consistent
information, i.e., a preference for information that supports one’s decision,
and thus leads to the neglect of conflicting information.

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Another explanation for confirmatory
information processing can be explained by the cognitive explanatory model proposes that information search is
determined by perceived information quality (I.e. decision makers are rational
and aim to find the best quality of decision-relevant information). However,
because they cannot evaluate information quality independent of their own
position, decision-consistent information receives an evaluation advantage and
is selected more frequently than decision-inconsistent information.

The current
study is based on the classic selective exposure paradigm, In the classic
selective exposure research paradigm, participants are first asked to work on a
decision problem, which requires them to decide between two different decision
alternatives (e.g., whether the contract of a manager should be extended or
not; which of two consumer products should be bought; or which investment
strategy should be chosen). Then, participants are asked to make a preliminary
or final decision on the basis of the available decision-relevant information.
Afterwards, participants have the opportunity to search for additional
information, which is normally received as short statements indicating the
perspective of newspaper articles, experts, or former participants. From these
statements, the information seeker learns (a) how the author of the article
argues in general, and (b) what decision is recommended by the author (e.g.,
“The manager was successful in setting up new products. Thus, his or her
contract should be prolonged”). The participants are asked to mark those pieces
of information that they would like to read in more detail later on. Half of
the additional information is consistent with the participants’ decision (arguments
for the chosen alternative and arguments against the non-chosen alternative),
and half of the statements are inconsistent with the participants’ decision
(arguments against the chosen alternative and arguments for the non-chosen
alternative). Selective exposure to supporting information occurs when
participants systematically select more consistent than inconsistent pieces of
decision-relevant information.

The present study
investigates the impact of the three major types of decision making on
confirmatory information processing, that is, (a) deliberate decision
making (i.e., decisions based on deliberate thinking and deep cognitive
processing); (b) intuitive decision
making (i.e., spontaneous decisions based on gut feelings); and (c) distracted decision making (i.e., decisions made in a busy environment
of cognitive load and distraction from the decision problem). It is proposed
that these three different modes of decision making may result in varied levels
of confidence about the validity of a decision made (i.e., decision certainty),
which in turn may differently affect the observed post-decisional tendency of
confirmatory information processing. 

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