Implicit in many economic models of decision-making is that choices are selected through a trivial and instantaneous maximization function. However, common experience suggests that the process is far more complicated: shoppers scan product aisles, fixating on products and prices and taking time before making difficult purchasing decisions. Additionally, studies of human decision making have uncovered several pervasive decision making biases. Loss aversion, the tendency to avoid losses over acquiring equivalent gains, is one of the most commonly observed phenomena.
Drift-diffusion models of decision making have been successfully applied to value-based decision making paradigms to provide a more sophisticated model of decision-making, and recent extensions of the model, like the attentional drift diffusion model (aDDM) incorporate gaze data to account for the attention-modulating effects of eye fixations. To date, no studies have attempted to use the aDDM or similar models to examine the ways that visual fixations reflect, shape and modulate loss aversion. By applying the aDDM to a gambling paradigm, my project aims to uncover the relationship between visual fixations and the phenomena of loss aversion.
This summer research experience was incredibly enriching. I was exposed to new technical skills (model fitting, MATLAB, log-likelihood estimation methods), as well as new ways of thinking about decision making. I was also excited to adopt more independence and, simultaneously, more collaboration. I did most of the work of the project this summer, but also depended to a great degree on the guidance of my post-doc advisors. It was an exciting project, and it really showed me the many-layered process of being a scientist: from project conception, to data collection, to analysis and finally presentation and communication.