Take it or leave it: Cognitive rules and satisfying choices.


We frequently face decision situations (selecting a mate, accepting a job offer, etc.) presenting only one alternative at a time and requiring us to "take it or leave it" (TIOLI). These situations force us to adopt some kind of satisfying rule setting minimum standards and accepting the first alternative that meets or exceeds them. One such rule sets initial standards and does not change them as alternatives are sampled. Another kind of rule modifies the standards in light of sampled alternatives. The present simulation examined how level of initial standards, quality of alternatives, and rule modification speed influenced search length and the quality of choice outcomes. Results show that search length grows exponentially when standards remain fixed and declines drastically even when modifications are slow. Results also support the speculation that people adopting lower standards are far more likely to choose alternatives exceeding their expectations than are people adopting higher standards. Implications for the shift from idealism to realism are discussed.

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