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The strategic nature of changing your mind

journal contribution
posted on 01.05.2009, 00:00 by Matthew M. Walsh, John R. Anderson

In two experiments, we studied how people’s strategy choices emerge through an initial and then a more considered evaluation of available strategies. The experiments employed a computer-based paradigm where participants solved multiplication problems using mental and calculator solutions. In addition to recording responses and solution times, we gathered data on mouse cursor movements. Participants’ motor behavior was revealing; although people rapidly initiated movement to the calculator box or the answer input box, they frequently changed their minds and went to the other box. Movement initiation direction depended on problem difficulty and calculator responsiveness. Ultimate strategy selection also depended on these factors, but was further influenced by movement initiation direction. We conclude that strategy selection is iterative, as revealed by these differences between early cursor movement and eventual strategy implementation. After rapidly initiating movement favoring one strategy, people carefully evaluate the applicability of that strategy in the current context.