Leveraging psychometrics of rational inattention to estimate individual differences in the capacity for cognitive control


Recent years have witnessed significant advances in our under-standing of bounds on rationality in both cognitive psychologyand economics. These two fields have been making separateprogress, but time is ripe for unifying these efforts. In this ar-ticle, we introduce recently developed economic tools, them-selves rooted in the psychometric tradition, to quantify indi-vidual differences in the capacity for cognitive control. Thesetools suggest that a reliable assessment of the capacity for cog-nitive control may be accomplished by examining task perfor-mance as a function of reward. We demonstrate through simulation studies that an incentive-informed measure of task per-formance does a better job of recovering individual differencesin one’s capacity for cognitive control, compared to the commonly used congruency effect. Furthermore, we show that theeconomic approach can be used to predict control-dependentbehavior across different task settings. We conclude by discussing future directions for the fruitful integration of behav-ioral economics and cognitive psychology with the aim of im-proved measurement of individual differences in the capacityfor cognitive control.

In Proceedings of the Annual Meeting of the Cognitive Science Society, 44