Tag Archives: Decision support

How thick is 2cm-thick steak?

Thickness matters when cooking steak. A rule of thumb is to cook a 2cm-thick piece of steak for 2 minutes for rare, 4 minutes for medium, and 6 minutes for well-done. However, we struggle with guessing how thick a piece of steak is. Seven years ago, I met a clever solution for this problem at a grocery store where there was a manually carved wood plank. Since it shows how professional providers empathize with novice customers, I have shared it with many planers and designers. Recently, I met a similar but more carefully designed wood plank at a different grocery store in Seoul, Korea. According to the website, Gourmet 494 is

a space for food, entertainment and communication, built on the concept of “grocerant” (grocery + restaurant) for the first time in Korea where groceries (food ingredients) and restaurants (food and beverages) come together in one place

Wood plank tells that thickness is difficult for people to evaluate. A specific value (e.g., 2 cm) is hard to tell another value (e.g., 3 cm) because we are not sensitive about it. About this issue, a group of psychologists introduced a concept of General Evaluability Theory about 10 years ago.

Hsee, C. K., & Zhang, J. (2010). General evaluability theory. Perspectives on Psychological Science5(4), 343-355.

A central question in psychology and economics is the determination of whether individuals react differently to different values of a cared-about attribute (e.g., different income levels, different gas prices, and different ambient temperatures). Building on and significantly extending our earlier work on preference reversals between joint and separate evaluations, we propose a general evaluability theory (GET) that specifies when people are value sensitive and when people mispredict their own or others’ value sensitivity. The GET can explain and unify many seemingly unrelated findings, ranging from duration neglect to affective forecasting errors and can generate many new research directions on topics ranging from temporal discounting to subjective well-being.

In the section of Nature, the authors wrote the following. According to them, human beings do not seem to have an innate or stable scale to evaluate values on thickness.

Nature refers to whether human beings have an innate and stable physiological or psychological “scale” (reference system) to evaluate values on an attribute. The attribute is inherently evaluable if they do or inherently inevaluable if they do not. Ambient temperature is an example of an inherently evaluable attribute; even without learning or social comparison, we can tell what temperature makes us comfortable and happy and what does not. Other examples include amount of sleep, social isolation, or connectedness. The size of a diamond and the power of a car are examples of inherently inevaluable attributes; without learning or comparison, we would not know how to assess such variables. Of course, some people know how to evaluate diamond size and car power, but such knowledge is learned, not innate. Because people possess innate reference systems for inherently evaluable attributes but not for inherently inevaluable attributes, value sensitivity (without learning or comparison) is higher for inherently evaluable attributes (H1.3). More precisely, people in SE are more sensitive to differences on an inherently evaluable attribute than to differences on an inherently inevaluable attribute, holding their sensitivity to the two types of differences in JE constant; see our discussion of the Mode × Value × Nature interaction later in this article.

It should be noted that classifying a variable as inherently evaluable does not mean that it is immune to the influence of external reference information (such as social comparison); instead, it means that people can evaluate the variable even without such information. Also, inherently evaluable variables are not always associated with basic biological needs—they also include socio-psychological variables, such as loneliness, depression, and sense of achievement. (For details, see Hsee, Yang, Li, & Shen, 2009.)

Do we enjoy brunch more if we combine foods to create it?

In cafes in Copenhagen, Denmark, customers are often asked to create their own meals by combining foods. I succeeded in this creative task in one cafe but did not in the other. Two cafes have slightly different menus.



I enjoyed the meal in the Mad & Kaffes (Food & Coffee). Foods were divided into six categories on the menu (green, dairy, bakery, meat and fish, and treat). I decided how many categories to go (3, 5, or 7) and then selected one food in each category.



I did not enjoy the meal in the Moller Kaffe and Kokken (Moller Coffee and Kitchen). Although individual foods were excellent, they were listed under one category. I could not figure out which foods to choose.


Since I knew little about Danish cuisine, categories relieved my burden and helped me create a meal. A similar logic was discovered ten years ago by marketing researchers who showed why kids need to follow instructions to assemble Lego bricks. To reach a creative outcome, we may need decision supporters such as categories, instructions, or even constraints.


Dahl, D. W., & Moreau, C. P. (2007). Thinking Inside the Box: Why Consumers Enjoy Constrained Creative Experiences. Journal of Marketing Research, 44(3), 357–369.

From cooking kits to home improvement shows, consumers are increasingly seeking out products that are designed to help them be creative. In this research, the authors examine why consumers participate in creative activities and under what conditions these experiences are the most enjoyable. A qualitative study explores the diverse motivations for undertaking creative tasks and identifies the role of constraints in such endeavors. Then, the authors conduct two experimental studies to understand the importance of constraints (e.g., instructional guidance, target outcomes) in facilitating a balance between perceived competence and autonomy for consumers involved in a creative task. When consumers engage in creative activities with a sense of both autonomy and competence, they enjoy the experience more. The authors discuss implications for managers and provide opportunities for further research.