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Decision Making, Affect, and LearningAttention and Performance XXIII$
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Mauricio R. Delgado, Elizabeth A. Phelps, and Trevor W. Robbins

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780199600434

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: May 2011

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199600434.001.0001

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The instability of value

The instability of value

Chapter:
(p.81) Chapter 4 The instability of value
Source:
Decision Making, Affect, and Learning
Author(s):

Nick Chater

Ivo Vlaev

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199600434.003.0004

Rational theories of decision making under risk typically assume that outcomes can be associated, either directly or implicitly, with utilities; and that decision makers choose options which exhibit the greatest utility. That is, the different choice options are assigned a value, independent of comparison with each other, and higher value options are chosen preferentially. This chapter argues for a local comparative theory of choice, and against value-based approaches (whether value or utility is interpreted psychologically or instrumentally), in the light of current psychological and neuroscientific data. Local comparison, not valuation, is a cognitively fundamental operation. Options can be compared with respect to each other, in the light of a specific local choice context; but not valued individually, on an internal utility scale. Section 4.1 explores what can be learned from related debates in psychophysics: specifically, it considers the debate concerning the existence of internal scales for perceptual magnitudes. Section 4.2 outlines a specific theory of choice. Sections 4.3 and 4.4 briefly consider the behavioural and neuroscientific evidence for comparative vs. value-based accounts. Section 4.5 looks at the relevance of these issues for wider issues in neuroscience, psychology, economics, and ethics.

Keywords:   decision making, risk, choice theory, local comparative theory, valuation

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