Task complexity and contingent processing in decision making: An information search and protocol analysis

Journal Article

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.

Full Text

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • Payne, JW

Published Date

  • 1976

Published In

Volume / Issue

  • 16 / 2

Start / End Page

  • 366 - 387

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

  • 0030-5073

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.1016/0030-5073(76)90022-2