Lauren Malamed

Abstract:                         Preferences and Sequences: Age and Patterns of Choice

This summer I am assisting Professor Egan Brad in her investigation of sequential choice. Professor Egan Brad is interested in how people will choose items in a sequence of varying desirability. For example, will a person eat their favorite chocolate in the box first or last? Furthermore, are there any patterns in sequential decision making trends across age? To explore these questions I will be aiding Professor Egan Brad in a simple but thorough experiment. Saturdays we will conduct our experiment in farmer’s markets such as Philadelphia’s Rittenhouse Farmer’s Market, which have many healthy, organic, and delicious foods to sample. We will be taking a variety (ten different items) of foods and presenting them to individuals. The participants will rate their liking of each of the ten options. From this information we will select a plate of the participant’s three highest-rated food items. Then, we ask the participant to eat the three items, in whichever order they like. Will people save their absolute favorite food item for last? Or will the converse be evident, with people opting to consume their favorite immediately? Perhaps, the choices will be arbitrary, or only be apparent between different age groups. We predict that preschool-age children (our youngest participating group) will be much less likely to save their absolute favorite food for last than adults. A collaborator at Yale is looking for the same kinds of patterns of preferences in capuchin monkeys, using some of the same food items we offered to our human participants.