Predecisional information acquisition: Effects of task variables on suboptimal search strategies

Terry Connolly, Brian K. Thorn

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

56 Scopus citations


Effective overall performance in judgment tasks generally involves both acquisition of information and integration of the information acquired. When information is costly the decision maker must balance acquisition costs against improved decisional accuracy, a complex balancing problem in which, laboratory evidence suggests, humans often do poorly. The three experiments reported here extend this earlier evidence to different task structures, subject pools, incentive systems, information volumes, decision aids, and kind of data sources. Though each of these factors was found to affect performance, the general finding was of persistent underpurchase (buying less information overall than is optimal) and mispurchase (buying poor sources when better sources are available at the same cost), with significant inflation of overall costs. It is proposed that unaided human judgment is unequal to the complexity of the cost/benefit trade-offs involved in acquiring costly information, and that formal decision analysis should be preferred whenever the stakes justify.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)397-416
Number of pages20
JournalOrganizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jun 1987

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Applied Psychology
  • Organizational Behavior and Human Resource Management


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