Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Graduate Group


First Advisor

John W. Hutchinson


When making decisions, individuals may only use a subset of all available information. The experience of thinking about and attending to this accessible information can, atop of the actual content, exert an impact on what information (and the weighting thereof) is employed in judgments. In this dissertation, I examine how experiences associated with memory-based accessibility (i.e., ease-of-recall) and stimulus-based accessibility (i.e., amount of attention allocated, salience) influence decision-making. Accessibility serves as the connecting construct for two essays of this dissertation for a meta-analysis of the ease-of-retrieval effect and how salience affects valuation.

In essay one, I meta-analyze an instantiation of how accessibility experiences (i.e., feelings associated with trying to retrieve information from memory) affect decisions: the ease-of-retrieval effect. The ease-of-retrieval effect contends people employ cognitive feelings of ease from recall as an input to judgment. I explore this idea through a common manipulation of ease-of-retrieval in which individuals generate either few or many examples of a given topic such as times they behaved assertively (Schwarz et al. 1991). This manipulation is argued to affect subjective ease and thereby other downstream dependent measures. Specifically, I test whether subjective ease fully mediates the impact of the manipulation. I also test several theoretical moderators of the use of cognitive feelings of ease as information (e.g., misattribution) and how much of the effect may be attributable to publication bias. Across over twenty-years of studies using conceptually-similar manipulations, I find evidence for several theoretical moderators, and find that publication bias only explains a small portion of the effect. Further, I find that subjective ease only partially explains the ease-of-retrieval effect, which means other explanations of the effect may also exist, yet they are understudied in the literature.

In essay two, I turn to stimulus-based forms of accessibility: namely, salience, or the amount of attention devoted to a stimulus. While prior theories of decision-making contend greater salience increases information accessibility, they do not specify how salience influences the weighting and valuation of said information. Instead, these theories mostly distinguish between low versus high accessibility due to salience as affecting information used in judgments, and that information valuation occurs separately based on task goals. I demonstrate through three rating-based conjoint experiments across multiple product categories (e.g., cars) that even when all information is highly accessible, differences in salience may have an impact on the valuation and weighting of that information. I show these effects can arise from both perceptual (e.g., position effects) and cognitive (i.e., elaboration in working memory) sources. However, I also demonstrate the persistence of salience-biases differs between these two sources: biases due to cognitive salience decline over repeated decisions, whereas biases from perceptual salience do not.

Available for download on Thursday, July 23, 2020

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