Complex decisions

The effect of instance complexity on human problem-solving ability (HREC 1749594.1)


The aim of this study is to measure whether humans can detect the difficulty of decisions and to compare human and robot decision-making. This project has been approved by The University of Melbourne’s Human Research Ethics Committee, and internally funded by The University of Melbourne.

What I will be asked to do?

Should you agree to participate, you will complete a series of computer tasks. For each trial in the task, you will be asked to solve a decision problem. An example of such a problem involves you being provided with a set of items, each with a nominated weight and dollar value. You will be given a minimum dollar target to achieve, and a maximum weight allowance. Your task would be to decide (yes or no) whether you can choose a selection of items from those available to you which allows you to achieve your dollar target, without breaching the maximum weight constraint.

The estimated time of commitment will be about 130 minutes. Participation in this study is completely voluntary and the information collected will remain strictly confidential. You will receive between $30 and $80 for your participation. Part of the payment will depend on the solutions you submit, with higher earnings provided for correct solutions.

How will my confidentiality be protected?

Any identifiable data which you provide will be stored in password-protected files, and will only be accessed by the researchers. The information you provide will be safeguarded subject to any legal requirements, and will be destroyed at least 5 years after final publication of results. Any publications or presentations resulting from this study will be based on de-identified data only.

What if I want to withdraw from the research?

Participation in this research is completely voluntary. You are free to withdraw at any time and to withdraw any unprocessed data previously supplied. This would have no effect on your relationship with any member of the Department of Finance at the University of Melbourne. It would not affect your grades, assessment or any treatment that you would otherwise be eligible for.

Where can I get further information?

If you have not understood any of this information, please contact us at This research project has been approved by the Human Research Ethics Committee of The University of Melbourne. If you have any concerns or complaints about the conduct of this research project, which you do not wish to discuss with the research team, you should contact the Manager, Human Research Ethics, Research Ethics and Integrity, University of Melbourne, VIC 3010. Tel: +61 3 8344 2073 or Email: All complaints will be treated confidentially. In any correspondence please provide the name of the research team or the name or ethics ID number of the research project.


How Do I Agree to Participate?

Please note that if you have previously taken part in one of our “Knapsack” or “Problem-solving” experiments, you cannot sign up for this experiment.  Feel free to email if you are unsure.

If you decide to participate, please sign up for an experimental session here.

Human ethics approval

This study has been approved by the University of Melbourne Human Research Ethics Committee (project ID: HREC: 1749594.1).

Brain, Mind and Markets Lab
Department of Finance
The University of Melbourne
Victoria 3010
Phone: +61 3 9035 9950