Content and Discontent: Indications and Implications of Domain Specificity in Preferential Decision Making

William M. Goldstein, Elke U. Weber

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

76 Scopus citations


This chapter explores that research on preferential decision making has been and largely continues to be dominated by the use of a particular kind of stimulus material: simple monetary gambles. There is a critical presentation of the metatheory that guides most research on preferential judgment and choice, which is called “the gambling metaphor,” but to do so specifically with respect to the issue of content effects. Others have voiced concerns at the level of general metatheory, but these have related mainly to other issues. The chapter reviews several areas of psychology in which the semantic content of stimuli has been found to be an important determinant of behavior: in memory, animal learning, categories and concepts, deductive reasoning, problem solving and expertise, and cognitive development. The psychological mechanisms underlying preferential decision making overlap sufficiently with those in other areas of psychology that decision researchers should draw from the substantive results concerning the effects of semantic content. It also reviews the research on preferential decision making that bears on the issue of content dependence. There is also some discussion about the views of what a theory of content effects in preferential decision making, which might look like if it is to maintain a reasonable degree of parsimony.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)83-136
Number of pages54
JournalPsychology of Learning and Motivation - Advances in Research and Theory
Issue numberC
StatePublished - Jan 1 1995

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Social Psychology
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology


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