A Discrepancy Between “What Should You Choose?” and “What Do You Choose?” in Intertemporal and Risky Decision-Making

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Purpose: When facing important decisions, people often ask themselves “What should I choose?” This question may involve intertemporal and risky decisions. The aim of our study was to test a potential discrepancy between the normative and descriptive perspective, that is, between “What should you choose?” and “What do you choose?”.

Methodology: In this study we assessed the rate of delay and probability discounting of 236 participants. The design was a 2 (“choose”/”should choose”) × 2 (small/large) × 5 (delays or probabilities) factorial design in delay and probability discounting.

Findings: People are less impulsive when taking the normative perspective than when they take the descriptive one. This phenomenon occurs in relation to large payoffs. However taking the normative rather than descriptive perspective makes no difference in risky decisions.

Research limitations: In further research it would be beneficial to study real outcomes as choice consequences and to control for variables that might moderate the impact of our manipulation, such as addictions.

Implications: The manipulation with the perspective may be applied not only in financial decision making. Our results may find a practical implementation to help impulsive people make more sensible decisions.

Originality: We demonstrated the internal conflict between the descriptive and normative mode in delay discounting decision making.

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