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Anticipation and choice heuristics in the dynamic consumption of pain relief.

Story, GW; Vlaev, I; Dayan, P; Seymour, B; Darzi, A; Dolan, RJ; (2015) Anticipation and choice heuristics in the dynamic consumption of pain relief. PLoS Comput Biol , 11 (3) , Article e1004030 . 10.1371/journal.pcbi.1004030. Green open access

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Abstract

Humans frequently need to allocate resources across multiple time-steps. Economic theory proposes that subjects do so according to a stable set of intertemporal preferences, but the computational demands of such decisions encourage the use of formally less competent heuristics. Few empirical studies have examined dynamic resource allocation decisions systematically. Here we conducted an experiment involving the dynamic consumption over approximately 15 minutes of a limited budget of relief from moderately painful stimuli. We had previously elicited the participants' time preferences for the same painful stimuli in one-off choices, allowing us to assess self-consistency. Participants exhibited three characteristic behaviors: saving relief until the end, spreading relief across time, and early spending, of which the last was markedly less prominent. The likelihood that behavior was heuristic rather than normative is suggested by the weak correspondence between one-off and dynamic choices. We show that the consumption choices are consistent with a combination of simple heuristics involving early-spending, spreading or saving of relief until the end, with subjects predominantly exhibiting the last two.

Type: Article
Title: Anticipation and choice heuristics in the dynamic consumption of pain relief.
Location: United States
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.1371/journal.pcbi.1004030
Publisher version: http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pcbi.1004030
Language: English
Additional information: © 2015 Story et al. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited
UCL classification: UCL
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 > Division of Psychiatry
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences > UCL Queen Square Institute of Neurology
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences > UCL Queen Square Institute of Neurology > Imaging Neuroscience
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Life Sciences
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/1464491
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