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Memory-based preferential choice in large option spaces

Hornsby, Adam; (2022) Memory-based preferential choice in large option spaces. Doctoral thesis (Ph.D), UCL (University College London). Green open access

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Abstract

Whether adding songs to a playlist or groceries to a shopping basket, everyday decisions often require us to choose between an innumerable set of options. Laboratory studies of preferential choice have made considerable progress in describing how people navigate fixed sets of options. Yet, questions remain about how well this generalises to more complex, everyday choices. In this thesis, I ask how people navigate large option spaces, focusing particularly on how long-term memory supports decisions. In the first project, I explore how large option spaces are structured in the mind. A topic model trained on the purchasing patterns of consumers uncovered an intuitive set of themes that centred primarily around goals (e.g., tomatoes go well in a salad), suggesting that representations are geared to support action. In the second project, I explore how such representations are queried during memory-based decisions, where options must be retrieved from memory. Using a large dataset of over 100,000 online grocery shops, results revealed that consumers query multiple systems of associative memory when determining what choose next. Attending to certain knowledge sources, as estimated by a cognitive model, predicted important retrieval errors, such as the propensity to forget or add unwanted products. In the final project, I ask how preferences could be learned and represented in large option spaces, where most options are untried. A cognitive model of sequential decision making is proposed, which learns preferences over choice attributes, allowing for the generalisation of preferences to unseen options, by virtue of their similarity to previous choices. This model explains reduced exploration patterns behaviour observed in the supermarket and preferential choices in more controlled laboratory settings. Overall, this suggests that consumers depend on associative systems in long-term memory when navigating large spaces of options, enabling inferences about the conceptual properties and subjective value of novel options.

Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Qualification: Ph.D
Title: Memory-based preferential choice in large option spaces
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
Language: English
Additional information: Copyright © The Author 2022. Original content in this thesis is licensed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International (CC BY-NC 4.0) Licence (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/4.0/). Any third-party copyright material present remains the property of its respective owner(s) and is licensed under its existing terms. Access may initially be restricted at the author’s request.
Keywords: Cognition, Preferential choice, Memory, Consumer choice, Decision making
UCL classification: UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences > Div of Psychology and Lang Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences > Div of Psychology and Lang Sciences > Experimental Psychology
UCL
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10156675
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