ISSN 0439-755X
CN 11-1911/B

Acta Psychologica Sinica ›› 2023, Vol. 55 ›› Issue (11): 1793-1805.doi: 10.3724/SP.J.1041.2023.01793

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Strategy switching in a sequence of decisions: Evidence from the Iowa Gambling Task

HU Xinyun, SHEN Yue, DAI Junyi()   

  1. Department of Psychology and Behavioral Sciences, Zhejiang University, Hangzhou 310058, China
  • Received:2023-02-02 Published:2023-11-25 Online:2023-08-31
  • Contact: DAI Junyi
  • Supported by:
    The Fundamental Research Funds for the Central Universities(2018QNA3014)


Much previous research has investigated strategies for various decision tasks with a sequence of trials. By assuming each individual adopted a single decision strategy across all trials and comparing corresponding computational cognitive models in terms of their performances in fitting empirical data, such research has revealed multiple decision strategies for various decision tasks. A common drawback of such research, however, was a neglect of the possibility that individuals switched their strategies during the relevant tasks. In Study 1, we developed a computational cognitive model for the Iowa Gambling Task (IGT) allowing for one switch between a reinforcement learning strategy and a heuristic strategy (i.e., strategy-switch-once or SSO model). The results of model comparison between the SSO model and single-strategy models provided clear evidence that individuals might change their strategies along the sequence of decisions in the IGT. Study 2 showed further that a higher proportion of individual data from a 200-trial IGT were fitted best by the SSO model than was the case among individual data from the standard, 100-trial IGT. These findings underscored the importance of considering potential strategy switching in a sequence of decision trials for a more proper understanding of decision strategies in various tasks, especially for a long sequence of decisions. For a deeper understanding of psychological mechanisms underlying sequences of decisions, future research might further investigate various forms of strategy switching such as gradual versus abrupt switches and task and individual factors that trigger such switches.

Key words: decision task with a sequence of trials, the Iowa Gambling Task, strategy switching, computational cognitive modeling, reinforcement-learning and heuristic strategies