From qualia to quality ratings : subjective experience, conscious thought and how decisions are explained

Research output: ThesisDoctoral ThesisCollection of Articles

Abstract

Academic psychology has traditionally considered subjective explanations for judgments and decisions unreliable or even fabricated. Additionally, explanations have been shown to interfere with judgment and decision making processes, which can degrade the quality of choices. These phenomena have been attributed to the lack of conscious access to the decision making processes. Explaining is assumed to shift the processing from the non-conscious mode into a more verbalized and conscious mode, leading to either fabrication or interference. This dissertation examines these effects by assuming that subjective experience is a highly relevant intermediate processing stage in decision making, whereas subjective explanations reflect the contents of socially oriented conscious thought, which originates from the metacognitive understanding related to the judgment and decision-making processes. When subjective experience and conscious thought are dissociated, interference or fabrication can occur. The dissertation presents the ideas underlying the Interpretation-Based Quality (IBQ) method, which emphasizes the special nature of subjective experience in judgments and decisions: Every individual has his or her own subjective point of view, from which the world is interpreted. In the context of preferential judgment and decision making, these differences between individuals, arising from different ways of experiencing the world, are easily regarded as measurement error. The IBQ method approaches these differences by asking research participants to explain their decisions in their own words. These explanations have been further analyzed qualitatively in order to find the relevant subjective dimensions on which decisions are based. As subjective explanations are used as data, the use of the IBQ method must respond to claims concerning unreliability, fabrication and interference. Therefore, four studies were conducted to test these claims in the evaluation of high image quality. As explaining has been found to shift processing into a more conscious mode, these studies also inform about the role of conscious thought in judgments and decisions. The general finding of this research was that conscious thought, evoked by the requirement to explain judgments, can also enhance the decision maker’s performance in cases that require tradeoffs, effortful information search and consistency over several decisions. The results suggest that when conscious thought and subjective experience work in concert, subjective explanations can provide highly useful qualitative data about the dimensions of subjective experience that are relevant in judgments and decisions. These dimensions are dependent on personal and contextual factors and cannot be predicted from physical data alone. The importance of conscious thought in decision making appears to be its ability to bring relevant information into consciousness by means of voluntary attention. This happens particularly in conflicts and when the decisions are novel. In these situations conscious thought and an analytic approach is activated automatically. This mechanism derives from metacognitive understanding, which is learned gradually in similar judgment and decision-making situations.
Original languageEnglish
Supervisors/Advisors
  • Häkkinen, Jukka, Supervisor
  • Nyman, Göte, Supervisor
Place of PublicationHelsinki
Publisher
Print ISBNs978-951-51-5338-8
Electronic ISBNs978-951-51-5339-5
Publication statusPublished - 2019
MoE publication typeG5 Doctoral dissertation (article)

Fields of Science

  • Attention
  • Choice Behavior
  • 515 Psychology

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