Decision Times and Processes on Complex Decision Problems

By Peter Wright
1977| Working Paper No. 406

In analysing what factors influence how long a consumer deliberates on a complex preferential choice problem, attention should be given to the antecedents of internal “conflict”, the decomposition of the decision process into stages, the tactical use of time by the decision maker, and the analysis of the processing operations that different choice strategies entail. This report reviews prior theorizing about decision times on complex problems and the experimental tests of these propositions. These studies offer an interesting case history on the problems of operationalizing theoretical variables and interpreting data to which decision-process researchers must be alert. Several widely-accepted data interpretations are challenged. A new theoretical analysis of the direct and moderator effect that choice strategy variations have on decision time is presented. The uses to which decision time data can be put in detecting spontaneous choice strategies, testing multistage decision process models, or predicting future choice probabilities are discussed.