Do I care or do I not?

PhD: Do I care or do I not? - An empirical assessment of decision heuristics in discrete choice experiments

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Discrete choice experiments (DCEs) are widely applied by health economists to elicit individuals’ preferences for healthcare services. The analysis of DCE data assumes that respondents consider and trade all attributes of the healthcare service under valuation when completing the hypothetical choice tasks. Over the last ten years, this assumption has been questioned and several studies suggest that respondents may ignore attributes as a simplifying choice heuristic. This PhD (1) investigates the presence of such decision heuristics in DCE responses, (2) explores causes of such behaviour and (3) evaluates methods to determine if a respondent used a particular heuristic.

 

Outcome and translation

Respondents are found to ignore DCE attributes and accounting for such behaviour may improve the validity of estimates. Current approaches assume that ignoring attributes is a heuristic to simplify choices. However, this PhD demonstrated that attributes may be ignored because they are not valued. Approaches that do not distinguish between non-valuation and heuristic are found to be potentially misleading. Furthermore, whilst respondents had difficulty reporting their information processing strategy, statistical methods could not distinguish between preference and heuristic. Future research could use process tracking techniques (e.g. eye-tracking and think aloud), pre-piloting and other qualitative methods (e.g. interviews) to better understand decision-making heuristics. The PhD also found that respondents’ use of heuristics may be caused by either a ‘too simple’ or ‘too difficult’ DCE design.

 

PhD Student: Sebastian Heidenreich

Supervisors: E Phimister (Economics, University of Aberdeen Business School), Mandy Ryan and Verity Watson (HERU)

Publications

Heidenreich, S. (2016) 'Do I care or do I not? An empirical assessment of decision heuristics in discrete choice experiments', PhD Thesis, HERU, University of Aberdeen.

Heidenreich, S., Watson, V., Ryan, M. and Phimister, E. (2018) 'Decision heuristic or preference? Attribute non-attendance in discrete choice problems', Health Economics, 27(1), 157-171.

Presentations

Heidenreich, S. (2013) Assessing the validity of responses to discrete choice experiments: a research plan. Scottish Graduate Programme in Economics (SGPE) Residential Methodology Conference. Crieff. January 2013.

Heidenreich, S. (2013) Assessing the validity of responses to discrete choice experiments: a research plan. Seminar in Economics. University of Stirling, Stirling. 13 January 2013.

Heidenreich, S. (2014) 'Assessing the validity of responses to discrete choice experiments: a behavioural framework for attribute non-attendance', Scottish Graduate Programme in Economics (SGPE) Residential Methodology Conference, Crieff, 9-10 January 2014

Heidenreich, S., Watson, V., Ryan, M. and Phimister, E. (2014) 'Can we separate Decision heuristics from genuine preferences? - the effect of familiarity on attribute non Attendance (ANA) in a DCE.', Health Economics in the Age of Longevity: a Joint iHEA & ECHE Congress, Trinity College, Dublin, 13-16 July 2014.

Heidenreich, S. (2014) 'It’s not what you ask, but how you ask it! Respondents’ ability to reflect on their use of attribute non-attendance in a DCE', Stirling Choice Workshop, University of Stirling, 14 October 2014.

Heidenreich, S. (2015) 'It’s not what you ask, but how you ask it! Respondents’ ability to reflect on their use of attribute non-attendance in a DCE', Scottish Graduate Programme in Economics (SGPE) Residential Methodology Conference, Crieff, 8-9 January 2015.

Heidenreich, S. (2015) 'Attribute non-attendance in discrete choice experiments', Glasgow health Economics Seminar Series (GhESS), Glasgow Caledonian University, 11 February 2015.

Heidenreich, S.Watson, V., Phimister, E. and Ryan, M. (2016) 'Conditioning on the unknown: respondents’ ability to reflect on their information processing strategies in discrete choice experiments', Scottish Economic Society Annual Conference, Perth, 20 April 2016.