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Risky choice and memory for effort: Hard work stands out

Mason, Alice; Madan, Christopher R.; Freas, Cody A.; Simonsen, Nick; Ludvig, Elliot A.; Spetch, Marcia L.


Alice Mason

Cody A. Freas

Nick Simonsen

Elliot A. Ludvig

Marcia L. Spetch


When deciding between different courses of action, both the potential outcomes and the costs of making a choice should be considered. These costs include the cognitive and physical effort of the different options. In many decision contexts, the outcome of the choice is guaranteed but the amount of effort required to achieve that outcome is unknown. Here, we studied choices between options that varied in the riskiness of the effort (number of responses) required. People made repeated choices between pairs of options that required them to click different numbers of sequentially presented response circles. Easy-effort options led to small numbers of response circles, whereas hard-effort options led to larger numbers of response circles. For both easy and hard-effort options, fixed options led to a consistent effort, whereas risky options led to variable effort that, with a 50/50 chance, required either more effort or less effort than the fixed option. Participants who showed a preference for easier over harder options were more risk averse for decisions involving hard options than for decisions involving easy options. On subsequent memory tests, people most readily recalled the hardest outcome, and they overestimated its frequency of occurrence. Memory for the effort associated with each risky option strongly correlated with individual risky preferences for both easy-effort and hard-effort choices. These results suggest a relationship between memory biases and risky choice for effort similar to that found in risky choice for reward. With effort, the hardest work seems to particularly stand out.


Mason, A., Madan, C. R., Freas, C. A., Simonsen, N., Ludvig, E. A., & Spetch, M. L. (2022). Risky choice and memory for effort: Hard work stands out. Decision, 10(1), 92-106.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Sep 12, 2022
Online Publication Date Nov 3, 2022
Publication Date Nov 3, 2022
Deposit Date Nov 9, 2022
Publicly Available Date Nov 4, 2023
Journal Decision
Print ISSN 0304-0941
Electronic ISSN 2325-9965
Publisher American Psychological Association (APA)
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 10
Issue 1
Pages 92-106
Keywords Statistics, Probability and Uncertainty; Applied Psychology; Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology; Social Psychology
Public URL
Publisher URL
Additional Information This paper is not the copy of record and may not exactly replicate the authoritative document published in the APA journal. The final article is available, upon publication, at:


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