TMI: More information doesn't necessarily help people make better decisions

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Making everyday decisions seems easy enough. People know basic information about health and finances that they can use to inform their decision making. But new research from Stevens Institute of Technology suggests that too much knowledge can lead people to make worse decisions, pointing to a critical gap in our understanding of how new information interacts with prior knowledge and beliefs.

The work, led by Samantha Kleinberg, associate professor of computer science at Stevens, is helping reframe the idea of how we use the mountain of data extracted from artificial intelligence and machine learning algorithms and how healthcare professionals and financial advisors present this new information to their patients and clients.

Kleinberg and her team, including former Stevens graduate student Min Zheng and cognitive scientist Jessecae Marsh from Lehigh University, found that when people make decisions in novel scenarios, such as those including mind-reading aliens, they do very well on that problem. "People are just focusing on what's in the problem," said Kleinberg. "They are not adding in all this extra stuff."

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