Date of Award

Spring 1-1-2010

Document Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Psychology & Neuroscience

First Advisor

Leaf Van Boven

Second Advisor

Bernadette Park

Third Advisor

Charles Judd

Abstract

People frequently make judgments and decisions in ways that, in hindsight, they might prefer to have made differently. Their judgments and decisions may be strongly influenced by some attributes that people would prefer receive less weight (e.g. transient emotions, peripheral cues, and social influence), and people may neglect other attributes that they would prefer receive more weight (e.g. factual information, subjective experiences, and personal preference). The central claim in this dissertation is that asking people to reflect on prescriptive decision processes--how decisions should be made--elicits a psychological state of mindfulness where people are increasingly aware of and better able to correct decisional influences. Such mindfulness thus improves the subjective quality of decisions. Six experiments examine how introspection-induced mindfulness changes the weighting of decision attributes and the outcome of decisions in various domains including charitable giving (Studies 1 & 5), dating (Studies 2 & 6), policy evaluations (Study 3), and movie preferences (Study 4). In each experiment, people's decisions are strongly influenced by some attributes while neglecting other attributes, in contrast with people's beliefs about how decisions should be made. By inducing mindfulness of prescriptive decision processes, people weight the decision attributes in closer accordance with how they think decisions should be made in that particular context. Furthermore, mindfulness also promotes increased awareness of decisional influences, which leads to judging the quality of decisions differently: a decision that people perceive to be consistent with their beliefs about how decisions should be made, is evaluated more favorably than a decision that is perceived to be inconsistent with such beliefs (Study 6).

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