Adapt/Exchange decisions depend on structural and surface features: Effects of solution costs and presentation format

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Problem solvers often need to choose between adapting a current solution and exchanging it for a new one. However, previous studies have not considered how such decisions might depend on structural and surface features of the task. Therefore, the present study investigated the interplay between the costs of the two solutions (a structural feature) and the format in which this information is presented (a surface feature). In a computer-based modular plant scenario, participants chose between modifying process parameters (Adapt) and reconfiguring the module setup (Exchange). The solution costs were presented either as graphs depicting parameter relations, separate numbers for each parameter, or integrated numbers for each solution. It was hypothesised that graphs induce satisficing (i.e., basing decisions only on Adapt), whereas the numeric formats foster a comparison of the solutions (i.e., basing decisions on the Adapt/Exchange ratio). The hypothesised effects were restricted to situations with medium Adapt costs. A second experiment replicated these findings while adjusting the scale of the numeric formats. In conclusion, Adapt/Exchange decisions are shaped by an interaction of structural and surface features of the task. These findings contribute to a more detailed understanding of the influences on decision strategies in complex scenarios that require a balance between stability and flexibility.


Original languageEnglish
Article number191
Pages (from-to)1-25
Number of pages25
JournalBehavioral Sciences
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 28 Feb 2024

External IDs

Scopus 85188825972