Observing and influencing preferences in real time. Gaze, morality and dynamic decision-making

Sammanfattning: Preference formation and choice are dynamic cognitive processes arising from interactions between decision-makers and their immediate choice environment. This thesis examines how preferences and decisions are played out in visual attention, captured by eye-movements, as well as in group contexts. Papers I-II make use of the Choice Blindness paradigm. Paper I compares participants’ eye movements and pupil dilation over the course of a trial when participants detect and fail to detect the false feedback concerning their choices. Results indicate objective markers of detection with important implications for questions concerning possible demand effect or cognitive dissonance explanations of choice blindness. Paper II examines another aspect of the choice environment, namely, the social context. Choice blindness is demonstrated in small groups for the first time. It is shown that preferential change can be induced in dyads by manipulating the group’s beliefs about their choices, thus extending the preference change through choice effects beyond individuals for the first time. Paper III examines how visual attention differentially supports both decision and memory processes depending on the amount of task-relevant information available to participants. Participants’ performance and visual attention dynamics was found to vary depending on the amount of information available to them, and the results indicate that decision outcomes are heavily influenced by encoding prior to traditional choice phases used in decision research. Papers IV-VII concern decision-making in the moral domain. Paper IV investigates visual attention when participants choose between difficult moral dilemmas, showing asymmetries in how participants distribute their attention depending on making utilitarian or deontological choices. Paper V introduces a novel paradigm for influencing decision based manipulating the timing of decision by measuring the direction of gaze while the participant deliberates. Using this method participants’ moral decisions were biased without their knowledge to a randomly chosen alternative. This shows that moral decision and visual attention are highly coupled and that by simply knowing where someone is looking it is possible to influence their decision process. Papers VI&VII build on the links between gaze direction and moral choice and present the first computational decision models based on eye gaze applicable to the moral domain. Paper VI for choices between abstract principles and Paper VII for donations to charitable organizations. Together the papers advance novel methodological solutions to understanding preferences and decisions across a number of domains, both highlighting the important contributions of social and sensorimotor interactions to the content of our decisions as they develop over time, as well as demonstrating how decisions can be influenced by leveraging those interactions.

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