Modeling the dynamics of risky choice

Marieke M. J. W. van Rooij, Luis H. Favela, MaryLauren Malone, Michael J. Richardson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

23 Citations (Scopus)


Individuals make decisions under uncertainty every day. Decisions are based on incomplete information concerning the potential outcome or the predicted likelihood with which events occur. In addition, individuals' choices often deviate from the rational or mathematically objective solution. Accordingly, the dynamics of human decision making are difficult to capture using conventional, linear mathematical models. Here, we present data from a 2-choice task with variable risk between sure loss and risky loss to illustrate how a simple nonlinear dynamical system can be employed to capture the dynamics of human decision making under uncertainty (i.e., multistability, bifurcations). We test the feasibility of this model quantitatively and demonstrate how the model can account for up to 86% of the observed choice behavior. The implications of using dynamical models for explaining the nonlinear complexities of human decision making are discussed as well as the degree to which the theory of nonlinear dynamical systems might offer an alternative framework for understanding human decision making processes.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)293-303
Number of pages11
JournalEcological Psychology
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2013
Externally publishedYes


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