The effects of attitudinal ambivalence and exploratory switching behavior on the use of two decision aids

Patrick Wheeler, Donald R. Jones

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


Decision aids are commonly designed to provide users with more task domain knowledge than that possessed by the users. Also, decision support systems often provide users with two or more decision aids for performing similar tasks, which can lead to switching between the aids. These aspects of decision aid use can combine to cause users to experience attitudinal ambivalence (i.e., simultaneously holding conflicting feelings or beliefs) toward the presence of the multiple decision aids. This study investigates the relationships among ambivalence, switching, and task performance in a behavioral experiment involving two decision aids. Based on attitudinal ambivalence research, we hypothesize that: (1) ambivalence toward two decision aids leads to switching between them; (2) switching is exploratory behavior that improves performance; and (3) switching occurs more when using decision aids with high-interactivity than when using those with low-interactivity. In this study, business students acting as bank loan officers process commercial loan applications using two decision aids (a regression prediction and a database list), between which they could freely switch. From a cognitive perspective, most participants (91%) viewed their decision aid environment as highly ambivalent. Switching occurred 23% of the time and in 89% of the participants. As expected, as switching increased, performance improved, and switching and performance improvements occurred with the high-interactivity database aid more than with the low-interactivity regression aid. The results provide weak support for the predicted relationship between cognitive ambivalence and switching, and none for emotional ambivalence and switching. Also, as switching increased, time to complete tasks (as a proxy for effort) increased.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)251-271
Number of pages21
JournalInternational Journal of Accounting Information Systems
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 2006


  • Attitudinal ambivalence
  • Decision aids
  • Decision support systems
  • Exploratory behavior
  • Interactivity
  • Switching


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