Less is more: Restructuring decisions to improve agent search

David Same, Avshalom Elmalech, Barbara J. Grosz, Moti Geva

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaperpeer-review

9 Scopus citations


In many settings and for various reasons, people fail to make optimal decisions. These factors also influence the agents people design to act on their behalf in such virtual environments as eCom- merce and distributed operating systems, so that the agents also act sub-optimally despite their greater computational capabilities. In some decision-making situations it is theoretically possible to supply the optimal strategy to people or their agents, but this optimal strategy may be non-intuitive, and providing a convincing explanation of optimality may be complex. This paper explores an alternative approach to improving the performance of a decision-maker in such settings: the data on choices is manipulated to guide searchers to a strategy that is closer to optimal. This approach was tested for sequential search, which is a classical sequential decision-making problem with broad areas of applicability (e.g., product search, partnership search). The paper introduces three heuristics for manipulating choices, including one for settings in which repeated interaction or access to a decision-maker's past history is available. The heuristics were evaluated on a large population of computer agents, each of which embodies a search strategy programmed by a different person. Extensive tests on thousands of search settings demonstrate the promise of the problem-restructuring approach: despite a minor degradation in performance for a small portion of the population, the overall and average individual performance improve substantially. The heuristic that adapts based on a decisionmaker's history achieved the best results. Categories and Subject Descriptors [Agent theories, Models and Architectures]: Bounded rationality General Terms Human Factors, Experimentation.

Original languageEnglish
Number of pages8
StatePublished - 2011
Event10th International Conference on Autonomous Agents and Multiagent Systems 2011, AAMAS 2011 - Taipei, Taiwan, Province of China
Duration: 2 May 20116 May 2011


Conference10th International Conference on Autonomous Agents and Multiagent Systems 2011, AAMAS 2011
Country/TerritoryTaiwan, Province of China


  • Restructuring decision making


Dive into the research topics of 'Less is more: Restructuring decisions to improve agent search'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this