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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 - PLoS Comput. Biol. (2015)

Bottom Line: 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.

View Article: PubMed Central - PubMed

Affiliation: Centre for Health Policy, Institute of Global Health Innovation, Imperial College London, London, United Kingdom; Wellcome Trust Centre for Neuroimaging, University College London, London, United Kingdom.

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.

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Related in: MedlinePlus

Changes in the instantaneous utility function.A Linear and concave utility functions. B Simulated optimal consumption paths with no discounting under the two forms of utility function. In each case two sample simulated paths are displayed, to illustrate that, with linear utility there is more than one optimal path. Left panel: under linear utility with no discounting or anticipation all paths which consume the entire budget are equally valued. Consumption is therefore chosen at random from a uniform distribution until the budget is expended. Right panel: concave utility motivates spreading consumption over time.
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pcbi.1004030.g002: Changes in the instantaneous utility function.A Linear and concave utility functions. B Simulated optimal consumption paths with no discounting under the two forms of utility function. In each case two sample simulated paths are displayed, to illustrate that, with linear utility there is more than one optimal path. Left panel: under linear utility with no discounting or anticipation all paths which consume the entire budget are equally valued. Consumption is therefore chosen at random from a uniform distribution until the budget is expended. Right panel: concave utility motivates spreading consumption over time.

Mentions: Effects of the instantaneous utility function. Within the standard economic model, the instantaneous utility function can affect the optimal consumption path, even for a decision-maker who treats the same outcome as equally valuable regardless of its timing (Fig. 2).


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

Story GW, Vlaev I, Dayan P, Seymour B, Darzi A, Dolan RJ - PLoS Comput. Biol. (2015)

Changes in the instantaneous utility function.A Linear and concave utility functions. B Simulated optimal consumption paths with no discounting under the two forms of utility function. In each case two sample simulated paths are displayed, to illustrate that, with linear utility there is more than one optimal path. Left panel: under linear utility with no discounting or anticipation all paths which consume the entire budget are equally valued. Consumption is therefore chosen at random from a uniform distribution until the budget is expended. Right panel: concave utility motivates spreading consumption over time.
© Copyright Policy
Related In: Results  -  Collection

License
Show All Figures
getmorefigures.php?uid=PMC4368544&req=5

pcbi.1004030.g002: Changes in the instantaneous utility function.A Linear and concave utility functions. B Simulated optimal consumption paths with no discounting under the two forms of utility function. In each case two sample simulated paths are displayed, to illustrate that, with linear utility there is more than one optimal path. Left panel: under linear utility with no discounting or anticipation all paths which consume the entire budget are equally valued. Consumption is therefore chosen at random from a uniform distribution until the budget is expended. Right panel: concave utility motivates spreading consumption over time.
Mentions: Effects of the instantaneous utility function. Within the standard economic model, the instantaneous utility function can affect the optimal consumption path, even for a decision-maker who treats the same outcome as equally valuable regardless of its timing (Fig. 2).

Bottom Line: 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.

View Article: PubMed Central - PubMed

Affiliation: Centre for Health Policy, Institute of Global Health Innovation, Imperial College London, London, United Kingdom; Wellcome Trust Centre for Neuroimaging, University College London, London, United Kingdom.

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.

Show MeSH
Related in: MedlinePlus