Decision-making and Learning

How do we learn which decisions are more rewarding?

Project title

Decision making and learning to attain reward (HREC 22033)


How do we make decisions to earn as much reward as possible? This research project aims to elucidate the psychological mechanism of decision-making/learning to attain monetary reward. Specifically, we will look in-depth at how people know the rewarding option from experience.

The research is funded by the University of Melbourne Faculty of Business and Economics.

What will I be asked to do?

Should you agree to participate you will be asked to finish a series of decision-making tasks. The tasks will be clearly explained to you and you will have a chance to practice before the actual experiment.

During the actual experiment, you will be asked to repeatedly choose between two options to earn as much reward as possible. On each of the choice trials, you will receive a reward depending on the probability assigned to the chosen option. As the reward probability for each option is unknown to you and changed dynamically across trials, you will be required to keep track of the probabilities over the course of the experiment to maximise your reward earnings.

The estimated time of commitment will be about 1.5 hours. Participation in this study is completely voluntary, and the information collected will remain confidential. You will receive between $20 and $35 for your participation. The amount you will receive will depend on your performance in the decision-making task. You will need a valid Australian PayID to be able to participate and be paid for your participation.

How will my confidentiality be protected?

This is a de-identified study. We will protect the confidentiality of your responses to the fullest possible extent, within the limits of the law. Only de-identified participant codes will be used in storage of the data; identifying information is used only for payment purposes, and the link between identity and participant codes is kept separately from trading and response data. All data will be kept securely in the Department of Finance for a minimum of five years from the date of publications to result from the experiment.

How will I receive feedback?

Results of the study will be available from the researchers’ websites, be presented at conferences and be published in peer-reviewed journals.

Will participation prejudice me in any way?

Please be advised that your participation in this study is completely voluntary. Should you wish to withdraw at any stage, or withdraw any unprocessed data you have supplied, you are free to do so without prejudice, and receive $10. Any potential conflicts of interest arising if you are a student of the above researchers will not affect your grades in any way.

Where can I get further information?

Should you require any further information, or have any concerns regarding the conduct of this research, please contact the researchers on 03 9035 9950 .

This project follows the guidelines of the National Health and Medical Research Council Statement on Human Experimentation, and has been approved by: Human Research Ethics Committee, The University of Melbourne.

If you wish to contact someone independent of the study about ethical issues or your rights, or if you have any concerns or complaints relating to your participation in the study, you may contact: The Executive Officer, Human Research Ethics Committee, The University of Melbourne (phone: 03 8344 2073, fax: 03 9347 6739).

How do I agree to participate?

If you decide to participate, please sign up for an experimental session here.

Human ethics approval

This study has been approved by the University of Melbourne Human Research Ethics Committee (project ID: HREC 22033).

Centre for Brain, Mind and Markets
Department of Finance
The University of Melbourne
Victoria 3010 Australia
Phone: +61 3 9035 9950