Measuring responses times in complex decision tasks


Research Questions / Hypotheses

The aim of this study is to explore individuals’ departure from optimality when faced with competing tasks and their decision-making in task prioritization, based on scheduling theory, and to determine whether it changes when reward is introduced. We hypothesized that participants will schedule the subtasks from hardest to easiest to gain the highest reward value.


At baseline, 47 participants were recruited. Participants who did not complete the whole trial or were not able to learn the task were excluded. 44 participants remained in the analysis after that exclusion.


Participants completed multiple trials for selecting and completing random dot kinematogram (RDK) tasks. On each trial, participants were shown a set of four RDKs labelled Easy, Medium, Hard, and Very Hard. They selected and completed one RDK at a time, in any order, completing as many as possible before a deadline. After completing each task, participants were presented with clues for a short word game similar to Wordle. The values are labelled Very High Value, High Value, Medium Value and Low Value. The value of the clues a participant got were depend on which order they completed the RDK task, with the most difficult task being the most rewarding. They guessed a word based on the clues gained.



Results showed that participants did not follow the optimal order, meaning that they did not choose the most difficult subtask first to gain the highest value reward. This could mean that people are not optimal in scheduling tasks. It could also be that the Wordle reward was not rewarding enough to participants to make them start with the most difficult reward first.