Academic Commons

Theses Doctoral

Decision Architecture and Implicit Time Horizons

Zaval, Lisa

Recent research on judgment and decision making emphasizes decision architecture, the task and contextual features of a decision setting that influence how preferences are constructed (Thaler & Sunstein, 2008). In a series of three papers, this dissertation considers architectural features related to the intertemporal structure of the decision setting that influence cognition, motivation, and emotion, and include modifications of (i) informational, (ii) experiential, (iii) procedural, and (iv) emotional environments. This research also identifies obstacles to decision making, whether that obstacle is an individual difference (e.g., age-related change in emotional processing) or a temporary state (e.g., a change in motivational focus, or sensitivity to irrelevant features of the decision setting). Papers 1 and 2 focus on decision architecture related to environmentally-relevant decisions, investigating how structural features of the decision task can trigger different choice processes and behavior. Paper 1 explores a potential mechanism behind constructed preferences relating to climate change belief and explores why these preferences are sensitive to normatively irrelevant features of the judgment context, such as transient outdoor temperature. Paper 2 examines new ways of emphasizing time and uncertainty with the aim of turning psychological obstacles into opportunities, accomplished by making legacy motives more salient to shift preferences from present-future and self-other trade-offs at the point of decision making. Paper 3 examines how the temporal horizon of a decision setting influences predicted future preferences within the domain of affective forecasting. In addition, Paper 3 explores how individual and situational differences might affect the match (or mismatch) between predicted and experienced outcomes by examining differences in forecasting biases among older versus younger adults. Taken together, these three papers aim to encourage individuals to make decisions that are not overshadowed by short-term goals or other constraints, with the aim of producing actionable modifications for policy-makers in the presentation of information relevant to such decisions.


  • thumnail for Zaval_columbia_0054D_12052.pdf Zaval_columbia_0054D_12052.pdf binary/octet-stream 1.2 MB Download File

More About This Work

Academic Units
Thesis Advisors
Weber, Elke
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
July 7, 2014