Inertia and Decision Making

Carlos Alós-Ferrer, Sabine Hügelschäfer, Jiahui Li

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Decision inertia is the tendency to repeat previous choices independently of the outcome, which can give rise to perseveration in suboptimal choices. We investigate this tendency in probability-updating tasks. Study 1 shows that, whenever decision inertia conflicts with normatively optimal behavior (Bayesian updating), error rates are larger and decisions are slower. This is consistent with a dual-process view of decision inertia as an automatic process conflicting with a more rational, controlled one. We find evidence of decision inertia in both required and autonomous decisions, but the effect of inertia is more clear in the latter. Study 2 considers more complex decision situations where further conflict arises due to reinforcement processes. We find the same effects of decision inertia when reinforcement is aligned with Bayesian updating, but if the two latter processes conflict, the effects are limited to autonomous choices. Additionally, both studies show that the tendency to rely on decision inertia is positively associated with preference for consistency.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number169
JournalFrontiers in Psychology
StatePublished - Feb 16 2016


  • Bayesian updating
  • decision making
  • inertia
  • multiple processes
  • perseveration
  • preference for consistency

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Psychology


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