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How lemonade changes the decision made

Filed in Research News ,SJDM
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Now this is interesting (*):


This experiment used the attraction effect to test the hypothesis that ingestion of sugar can reduce reliance on intuitive, heuristic-based decision making. In the attraction effect, a difficult choice between two options is swayed by the presence of a seemingly irrelevant “decoy” option. We replicated this effect and the finding that the effect increases when people have depleted their mental resources performing a previous self-control task. Our hypothesis was based on the assumption that effortful processes require and consume relatively large amounts of glucose (brain fuel), and that this use of glucose is why people use heuristic strategies after exerting self-control. Before performing any tasks, some participants drank lemonade sweetened with sugar, which restores blood glucose, whereas others drank lemonade containing a sugar substitute. Only lemonade with sugar reduced the attraction effect. These results show one way in which the body (blood glucose) interacts with the mind (self-control and reliance on heuristics).


Masicampo, E. J., & Baumeister, R. F. (2008). Toward a physiology of dual-process reasoning and judgment: Lemonade, willpower, and effortful rule-based analysis. Psychological Science, 19, 255-260.

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(*) When Decision Science News says that “this” is interesting, it means the finding that sugar can affect the particular heuristic employed is interesting.

For a more classically cognitive model of how heuristics are selected from the adaptive toolbox, see:

  • Rieskamp, Jörg & Otto, Philipp E. (2006). SSL: A Theory of How People Learn to Select Strategies. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, 135(2), 207-236.

For a blend of the biological and the cognitive, see:

  • Mata, Rui; Schooler, Lael J.; Rieskamp, Jörg (2007). The aging decision maker: Cognitive aging and the adaptive selection of decision strategies. Psychology and Aging, 22(4), 796-810.

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