• Gut thinking and eye tracking: Evidence for a central preference heuristic

      Thoma, Volker; Rodway, Paul; Tamlyn, Guy; University of East London; University of Chester (Taylor and Francis, 2021-09-01)
      People prefer the central item in an array of items. This could be due to applying a decision heuristic or greater visual attention to the central item. We manipulated task instructions as participants chose one from three consumer items. The instructions were to “think carefully” in one block and to “use gut feeling” in another. A centrality preference appeared only in the “gut” condition, which was also negatively correlated with self-reported reflective thinking disposition (Need-for-Cognition). Eye-movement patterns, however, were equivalent across both instruction conditions with more frequent and longer fixations on the middle items. The findings demonstrate an effect of instructions on the centrality preference for non-identical consumer items, and provide evidence for a heuristic cause of the centrality preference rather than the allocation of visual attention. The results also show that the centrality preference is more likely to be present when people choose quickly and intuitively.