First-year undergraduates participated in a short-term longitudinal study of real-life decision making over their first 14 months of college. They were surveyed about 7 different decisions: choosing courses for an upcoming term (3 different terms), choosing an academic major (twice), planning for the upcoming summer, and planning for sophomore-year housing. Participants showed moderate levels of consistency in the options they considered and in the criteria they used to decide between options, with about half of the options or criteria being used at 2 different points on the decision repeatedly studied. Participants varied somewhat in structural consistency, the tendency to consider the same number of options or criteria across decisions. They also varied in the way they integrated information across decision-making tasks. We suggest that people attempt to keep the information demands of the task within workable limits, sometimes sacrificing consistency as a result.

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