Impatience in Dynamic Decision-Making: Its Moderation, and Implications for User Interface Design

Open Access
Ghafurian, Moojan
Graduate Program:
Information Sciences and Technology
Doctor of Philosophy
Document Type:
Date of Defense:
September 22, 2017
Committee Members:
  • David Reitter, Dissertation Advisor
  • David Reitter, Committee Chair
  • Frank Ritter, Committee Member
  • Vasant Honavar, Committee Member
  • Susan Mohammed, Outside Member
  • Decision-making
  • Time perception
  • Impatience
  • Timing games
  • User interface design
  • Human-computer interaction
  • Countdown timer
Decisions on when to act are critical in many real life situations. Examples include several health care, safety and security situations, where acting early or late can both result in substantial costs or losses. These decisions are dynamic and are mostly made under uncertainty. This type of decision relates to and contrasts with discrete decisions, which have been studied extensively in terms of people's systematic deviations from utility-maximizing norms, or in other words, biases. In this dissertation, a game is introduced as a platform to study timing decisions. Impatience induced by delays is investigated as a bias affecting timing decisions, and is successfully manipulated and moderated. Seven experiments are presented. The first experiment (N=73) suggested that a tendency to act early affects timing decisions. This experiment also indicated that the relative importance of the effects of impatience and risk propensity on such decisions changes based on proficiency in tasks and task duration. The second experiment (N=123) confirmed existence of an impatience bias. The third experiment (N=701) showed that impatience induced by delays: (1) affects timing decisions in the subsequent tasks, (2) increases a tendency to receive information faster, only for a few seconds, with cost and no gains, and (3) reduces subsequent task satisfaction. Furthermore, impatience is successfully manipulated and significantly moderated using fast countdowns. Experiment 4 (N=304) showed that the mechanism behind this impatience moderation is altered time perception, and presented trade-offs between delay perception and delay recall. Experiment 5 (N=538) investigated a wider range of feedback speeds, replicated the results of Experiments 2 and 3, and provided insights and trade-offs for user interface design. Experiments 6 (N=113) and 7 (N=294) investigated how actions that save one's time by making others wait, i.e., impatience acts, are perceived, and asked whether people are sensitive to the total cost, taking both number of people involved in the scenarios and the imposed time cost into account. Results showed that people are rationally sensitive to group sizes, but total cost is perceived differently depending on existing norms for the scenario. Furthermore, gender differences in expression of impatience and implications for user interface design are discussed, and the results suggested that impatience may reduce as people get older. These findings are valuable as they contribute to understanding human biases and decision-making, and provide insights on how to properly design feedback for user interfaces. A precise picture of how biases influence timing decisions will be of interest for designing tutoring systems and for training people whose successful, rational decision-making is necessary in domains such as personal health, national security, or public safety.