Does the utility of information influence sampling behavior?

Abstract

A critical aspect of human cognition is the ability to actively query the environment for information. One important (but often overlooked) factor in the decision to gather information is the cost associated with accessing different sources of information. Using a simple sequential information search task, we explore the degree to which human learners are sensitive to variations in the amount of utility related to different potential observations. Across two experiments we find greater support for the idea that people gather information to reduce their uncertainty about the current state of the environment (a "disinterested", or cost-insenstive, sampling strategy). Implications for theories of rational information collection are discussed.


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