A web-based feedback study on optimization-based training and analysis of human decision making

  • Michael Engelhart (Author)
  • Joachim Funke (Author)
    Ruprecht-Karls-Universität Heidelberg
  • Sebastian Sager (Author)
    Faculty of Mathematics Otto-von-Guericke Universität Magdeburg

Identifiers (Article)


The question “How can humans learn efficiently to make decisions in a complex, dynamic, and uncertain environment” is still a very open question. We investigate what effects arise when feedback is given in a computer-simulated microworld that is controlled by participants. This has a direct impact on training simulators that are already in standard use in many professions, e.g., for flight simulators for pilots, and a potential impact on a better understanding of human decision making in general.

Our study is based on a benchmark microworld with an economic framing, the IWR Tailorshop. N=94 participants played four rounds of the microworld, each 10 months, via a web interface. We propose a new approach to quantify performance and learning, which is based on a mathematical model of the microworld and optimization. Six participant groups receive different kinds of feedback in a training phase, then results in a performance phase without feedback are analyzed. As a main result, feedback of optimal solutions in training rounds improved model knowledge, early learning, and performance, especially when this information is encoded in a graphical representation (arrows).



Supplementary Content

Contributor or sponsoring agency
BMBF, European Research Council
Type, method or approach
original empirical work; new analysis method
decision making, complex problem solving, optimization, mixed-integer nonlinear programming