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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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PRINTED FROM OXFORD SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (oxford.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Oxford University Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in OSO for personal use. date: 22 October 2021

The instability of value

The instability of value

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

Nick Chater

Ivo Vlaev

Oxford University Press

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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