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Why is my commute so slow? Habit and the subexploration of novel and better alternatives: an experimental study

Wednesday 7 February 2024, 14:00-15:00
Hybrid: Charles Thackrah 1.05 OR Online - book below
Bastián Henríquez, Universidad de Chile



In psychology and neuroscience it is well accepted that decisions are controlled by at least two behavioural systems that are relatively independent: a model-based system which acts in accord with the expected value or utility of different options and a model-free or habitual system which acts automatically, ignoring expected utility and selecting actions only considering their past utility under similar circumstances. However, how the inflexibility of habits may affect exploratory behaviour when subjects have the opportunity to choose new alternatives that may be more beneficial, remains unexplored. Using, a well-established task in computational neuroscience, we show that exploration of new alternatives in a transportation choice scenario is hindered when subjects tend to develop habit-like strategies. Our results suggest that the choice of suboptimal routes in real life may be a consequence of the habitual nature of commuting.

The speaker

Bastián Henríquez studied civil engineering at the Universidad de La Frontera in Temuco, Chile. During this time, he spent a year at the Leibniz Universität Hannover, Germany, on a DAAD scholarship and did an internship in Switzerland. During his final years at university, he became passionate about the field of transport and how it affects people's daily lives. After graduating, he started working in transport consultancy. Shortly after, he started a PhD in Engineering Systems at Universidad de Chile, focusing on travel behaviour. His work now focuses mainly on the study of the influence of experiences on travel choices, habits, behaviour change and the use of physiological data in econometric models.