Abstract for: “10 years on average doesn’t mean 10 years in any case” – an Experimental Investigation of Fixed and Continuous Delays

The purpose of the paper is to test whether people make different decisions when a task requires either a fixed delay or a continuous delay conceptualisation. With the help of a structurally simple dynamic decision making task, we test two conditions in a controlled experiment: hiring when personnel stays in an organisation for exactly ten years (fixed delay condition) or when personnel stays on average for ten years (continuous delay condition). In this preliminary study, 71 participants were tested. Findings so far show no differences in performance between the groups, indicating that they most likely use the same cognitive representation of the task. Since participants’ answers are substantially closer to the fixed delay condition, we assume that people have the tendency to conceptualise lags in the form of discrete delays, at least in the context of personnel hiring. Research implications comprise the repetition of the experiment to achieve a higher number of participants and to allow for a more extreme differentiation between the two conditions. Practical implications regard the formulation of decision making tasks within organisations, for instance in human resource management. The value of this paper lies in its rigorous usage of a structurally simple dynamic task to shed light on a fundamental trait of human decision making.