Under pressure: The influence of time limits on human exploration

AbstractHow does time pressure influence attitudes towards uncertainty? When time is limited, do people engage in different exploration strategies? We study human exploration in a range of four-armed bandit tasks with different reward distributions and manipulate the available time for each decision (limited vs. unlimited). Through multiple behavioral and model-based analyses, we show that reactions towards uncertainty are influenced by time pressure. Specifically, participants seek out uncertain options when time is unlimited, but avoid uncertainty under time pressure. Moreover, larger relative differences in uncertainty between options slowed down reaction times and dampened the drift rate of a linear ballistic accumulator model. These results shed new light on the differential effect of uncertainty and time pressure on human exploration.

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