MEM-EX: An exemplar memory model of decisions from experience

Jared M. Hotaling, Chris Donkin, Andreas Jarvstad, Ben R. Newell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Many real-world decisions must be made on basis of experienced outcomes. However, there is little consensus about the mechanisms by which people make these decisions from experience (DfE). Across five experiments, we identified several factors influencing DfE. We also introduce a novel computational modeling framework, the memory for exemplars model (MEM-EX), which posits that decision makers rely on memory for previously experienced outcomes to make choices. Using MEM-EX, we demonstrate how cognitive mechanisms provide intuitive and parsimonious explanations for the effects of value-ignorance, salience, outcome order, and sample size. We also conduct a cross-validation analysis of several models within the MEM-EX framework. We compare these to three alternative models; two baseline models built on the principle of expected value maximization, and another employing a suite of choice methods previously shown to perform well in prediction tournaments. We find that MEM-EX consistently outperforms these competitors, demonstrating its value as a tool for making quantitative predictions without overfitting. We discuss the implications of these findings for our understanding of the interplay between attention, memory, and experience-based choice.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number101517
JournalCognitive Psychology
StatePublished - Nov 2022


  • Cognitive mechanisms
  • Computational models
  • Decision making
  • Decisions from experience
  • Exemplar memory

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Linguistics and Language
  • Artificial Intelligence


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