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Classical studies suggest that high-level cognitive decisions (e.g., choosing between financial options) are suboptimal. In contrast, low-level decisions (e.g., choosing where to put your feet on a rocky ridge) appear near-optimal: the perception-cognition gap. Moreover, in classical tasks, people appear to put too much weight on unlikely events. In contrast, when people can learn through experience, they appear to put too little weight on unlikely events: the description-experience gap. We eliminated confounding factors and, contrary to what is commonly believed, found results suggesting that (i) the perception-cognition gap is illusory and due to differences in the way performance is assessed; (ii) the description-experience gap arises from the assumption that objective probabilities match subjective ones; (iii) people's ability to make decisions is better than the classical literature suggests; and (iv) differences between decision-makers are more important for predicting peoples' choices than differences between choice tasks.

Original publication




Journal article


Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A

Publication Date





16271 - 16276


Cognition, Decision Making, Humans, Learning, Likelihood Functions, Models, Psychological, Probability, Psychomotor Performance, Reproducibility of Results, Research Design