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Elisabeth Slifkin, Mark Neider; Maximizers and Satisficers in Visual Search: Extra Effort Doesn’t Guarantee Additional Reward. Journal of Vision 2021;21(9):1973. doi: https://doi.org/10.1167/jov.21.9.1973.
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Bounded rationality prevents human decision-makers from acting optimally all the time; often, its necessary to accept a “good enough” solution when it’s impossible to explore every alternative. Maximizers aim to discover all possibilities and select only the best option, while satisficers select the first acceptable option. Previous research on choosing among alternatives has shown that maximizers outperform satisficers on objective measures of performance, but are worse on subjective measures. The present studies aim to broaden the scope of the existing maximizing literature (for review, see Cheek & Schwartz, 2016) to encompass visual search. Critically, we change the underlying question from how individuals select among an array of options to how they identify whether a single item is present. In two experiments, participants completed numerous personality assessments, including a maximizing tendency scale, and performed a visual search task where they identified whether a target letter was present or absent from the display. The top and bottom quartiles of the maximizing scale were classified as maximizers and satisficers, respectively. In Experiment 1, items appeared in set sizes of 20, 30, or 40, with 50% target presence. Results indicated no difference between maximizers and satisficers in terms of accuracy or response time, however non-significant differences in response time began to emerge at set size 40. Experiment 2 included larger set sizes (40, 60, 80) to accentuate the trending differences between groups found in Experiment 1. Results indicated no group differences in accuracy, and a marginal effect of response time (~2.5-3s difference). Specifically, maximizers responded more slowly than satisficers, but without improving accuracy. Overall, these results suggest that contrary to expectations, satisficers may perform better on a visual search task than maximizers, but only when it is difficult, as they are able to achieve equal levels of accuracy as maximizers, in less time.
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