How does time pressure influence exploration and decision-making? We investigated this question with several four-armed bandit tasks manipulating (within subjects) expected reward, uncertainty, and time pressure (limited vs. unlimited). With limited time, people have less opportunity to perform costly computations, thus shifting the cost-benefit balance of different exploration strategies. Through behavioral, reinforcement learning (RL), reaction time (RT), and evidence accumulation analyses, we show that time pressure changes how people explore and respond to uncertainty. Specifically, participants reduced their uncertainty-directed exploration under time pressure, were less value-directed, and repeated choices more often. Since our analyses relate uncertainty to slower responses and dampened evidence accumulation (i.e., drift rates), this demonstrates a resource-rational shift towards simpler, lower-cost strategies under time pressure. These results shed light on how people adapt their exploration and decision-making strategies to externally imposed cognitive constraints.
Wu, C.M., Schulz, E., Pleskac, T.J. et al. Time pressure changes how people explore and respond to uncertainty. Sci Rep 12, 4122 (2022). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-022-07901-1