The formation of preference in risky choice

Moshe Glickman, Orian Sharoni, Dino J. Levy, Ernst Niebur, Veit Stuphorn, Marius Usher

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


A key question in decision-making is how people integrate amounts and probabilities to form preferences between risky alternatives. Here we rely on the general principle of integration-to-boundary to develop several biologically plausible process models of risky-choice, which account for both choices and response-times. These models allowed us to contrast two influential competing theories: i) within-alternative evaluations, based on multiplicative interaction between amounts and probabilities, ii) within-attribute comparisons across alternatives. To constrain the preference formation process, we monitored eye-fixations during decisions between pairs of simple lotteries, designed to systematically span the decision-space. The behavioral results indicate that the participants' eye-scanning patterns were associated with risk-preferences and expected-value maximization. Crucially, model comparisons showed that within-alternative process models decisively outperformed within-attribute ones, in accounting for choices and response-times. These findings elucidate the psychological processes underlying preference formation when making risky-choices, and suggest that compensatory, within-alternative integration is an adaptive mechanism employed in human decision-making.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere1007201
JournalPLoS Computational Biology
Issue number8
StatePublished - 2019


FundersFunder number
National Institute on Drug AbuseR01DA040990


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