Task complexity and contingent processing in decision making: An information search and protocol analysis
Two process tracing techniques, explicit information search and verbal protocols, were used to examine the information processing strategies subjects use in reaching a decision. Subjects indicated preferences among apartments. The number of alternatives available and number of dimensions of information available was varied across sets of apartments. When faced with a two alternative situation, the subjects employed search strategies consistent with a compensatory decision process. In contrast, when faced with a more complex (multialternative) decision task, the subjects employed decision strategies designed to eliminate some of the available alternatives as quickly as possible and on the basis of a limited amount of information search and evaluation. The results demonstrate that the information processing leading to choice will vary as a function of task complexity. An integration of research in decision behavior with the methodology and theory of more established areas of cognitive psychology, such as human problem solving, is advocated. © 1976.
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