Decision by Sampling (DbS)

Decision by Sampling (DbS) is a cognitive process-based theory of decision making originally developed by Neil Stewart, Nick Chater, and Gordon D. A. Brown (not to be confused with the former British prime minister).  DbS provides an account of magnitude evaluation based on memory sampling and relative judgment.  In doing so, it departs from the utility-based approaches typically encountered in psychology and economics, in that it does not rely on stable, underlying value representations to explain valuation and choice, or on choice behavior to derive value functions.  Instead, preferences emerge spontaneously from the distributions of sampled events that people observe and the relative nature of the evaluation process.


Papers & Chapters related to Decision-by-Sampling Theory:


Stewart, N., Chater, N., & Brown, G. D. A. (2006). Decision by sampling. Cognitive Psychology, 53, 1-26.  (Click here for PDF)

Brown, G. D. A., Gardner, J., Oswald, A.J., & Qian, J. (2008). Does wage rank affect employees' well-being? Industrial Relations, 47, 355-389.  (Click here for PDF)

Stewart, N., & Simpson, K. (2008). A decision-by-sampling account of decision under risk. In N. Chater & M. Oaksford (Eds.), The probabilistic mind: Prospects for Bayesian cognitive science (pp. 261-276). Oxford, England: Oxford University Press.  (Click here for PDF)


Stewart, N. (2009). Decision by sampling: The role of the decision environment in risky choice. Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology, 62, 1041-1062.  (Click here for PDF)


Olivola, C. Y., & Sagara, N. (2009). Distributions of observed death tolls govern sensitivity to human fatalities. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the USA, 106, 22151–22156.  (Click here for link to paper)

Boyce, C. J., Brown, G. D. A., & Moore, S. C. (2010). Money and happiness: Rank of income, not income, affects life satisfaction. Psychological Science, 21, 471-475.  (Click here for PDF)

Kornienko, T. (2011). A cognitive basis for context-dependent utility: An adaptive magnitude evaluation approach. Working paper, University of Edinburgh.  (Click here for PDF)

Ungemach, C., Stewart, N., & Reimers, S. (2011). How incidental values from the environment affect decisions about money, risk, and delay. Psychological Science, 22, 253–260.  (Click here for PDF)

Wood, A. M., Brown, G. D. A., & Maltby, J. (2011). Thanks, but I'm used to better: A relative rank model of gratitude. Emotion, 11, 175-180.  (Click here for PDF)

Vlaev, I., Chater, N., Stewart, N., Brown, G. D. A. (2011). Does the brain calculate value? Trends in Cognitive Sciences15, 546-554.  (Click here for PDF)

Brown, G. D. A., & Matthews, W. J. (2011). Decision by sampling and memory distinctiveness: Range effects from rank-based models of judgment and choice. Frontiers in Psychology2, 299(1)-299(4).  (Click here for PDF)

Olivola, C. Y., & Chater, N. (2017). Decision by sampling: Connecting preferences to real-world regularities. In M. N. Jones (Ed.) Big Data in Cognitive Science. New York: Taylor and Francis.  (Click here for PDF)