When Thinking Feels Difficult: Meta-Cognitive Experiences in Judgment and Decision Making

Our judgments and choices are based on the attributes of the target or choice alternatives that come to mind at the time we make the judgment or choice. Hence, we should perceive more risk the more risk-increasing behaviors come to mind, should consider an outcome less inevitable the more alternatives we can think of, and should be more likely to make a choice the more reasons we see for doing so. Our assessments of the truth value of a statement should be solely based on our relevant domain knowledge, not on the color of the font in which the statement is printed. These findings are surprising for most models of judgment and decision making because the results are at odds with the expectation that our judgments and decisions depend on what comes to mind. Instead, these findings illustrate that the subjective experiences that accompany the reasoning process are informative in their own right. These subjective experiences come in the form of moods and emotions, and in the form of meta-cognitive experiences, like the ease or difficulty with which we can recall relevant information, generate arguments, or process novel material. These latter experiences are the topic of this article. To understand judgment and decision making, we also need to address the subjective experiences that accompany the reasoning process. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2007 APA, all rights reserved)