The Use of Information in Decision Making: An Experimental Investigation of the Impact of Computer Based Decision Aids


MIS Quarterly

September 1992, vol. 16, n°3, pp.373-393

Departments: Information Systems and Operations Management

Keywords: Decision support systems, information processing, cognitive cost benefit theory

The traditional assumption in the decision support systems (DSS) literature is that if decision makers are provided with expanded processing capabilities they will use them to analyze problems in more depth and, as a result, make better decisions. Empirical studies investigating the relationship between DSS and decision quality have not borne this out. The explanation for such outcomes could be found in behavioral decision making theories. The literature on behavioral decision making indicates that the conservation of effort may be more important than increased decision quality in some cases. If this is so, then the use of a decision aid may result in effort savings but not improved decision performance. The two experiments reported here use verbal protocolanalysis to compare the extent of information use by unaided decision makers and usersof a decision aid designed to support preferential choice problems. The results of the twostudies indicate that subjects with a decision aid did not use more information than those without one. Overall, subjects behaved as if effort minimization was an important consideration. For DSS researchers these studies indicate that to understand the DSS-decision quality relationship, it is necessary to consider the decision maker's tradeoff between improving decision quality and conserving effort. For DSS designers theseresults imply a need to focus on the moderating role that effort will play in determining DSS effectiveness