Thought experiment

Kevin Lewis

October 03, 2017

The Role of Anticipated Regret in Advice Taking
Konstantina Tzini & Kriti Jain
Journal of Behavioral Decision Making, forthcoming


Across five studies, we demonstrate that anticipated future regret influences receptiveness to advice. While making a revision to one's own judgment based on advice, people can anticipate two kinds of future regret: (a) the regret of following non-beneficial advice and (b) the regret of ignoring beneficial advice. In studies 1a (scenario task) and 1b (judgment task), we find that anticipated regret from erring after following advice is greater than anticipated regret from erring after ignoring advice. Furthermore, receptiveness decreases as the difference between anticipated regret from following and from ignoring advice increases. In study 2, we demonstrate that perceived justifiability of one's own initial decision is greater than that of advice. This difference in perceived justifiability influences anticipated regret and that, in turn, influences receptiveness. In study 3, we investigate the effect of advisor's expertise on perceived justifiability, anticipated regret, and receptiveness. In study 4, we propose and test an intervention to improve receptiveness based on self-generation of advice justifications. Participants who were asked to self-generate justifications for the advice were more receptive to it. This effect was mediated by perceived justifiability and anticipated regret. These findings shed further light on what prevents people from being receptive to advice and how this can be improved.

Breaking Magic: Foreign Language Suppresses Superstition
Constantinos Hadjichristidis, Janet Geipel & Luca Surian
Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology, forthcoming


In three studies we found that reading information in a foreign language can suppress common superstitious beliefs. Participants read scenarios either in their native or a foreign language. In each scenario, participants were asked to imagine performing an action (e.g., submitting a job application) under a superstitious circumstance (e.g., broken mirror; four-leaf clover) and to rate how they would feel. Overall, foreign language prompted less negative feelings towards bad-luck scenarios, less positive feelings towards good-luck scenarios, while it exerted no influence on non-superstitious, control scenarios. We attribute these findings to language-dependent memory. Superstitious beliefs are typically acquired and used in contexts involving the native language. As a result, the native language evokes them more forcefully than a foreign language.

Why Improvement Can Trump Consistent Strong Performance: The Role of Effort Perceptions
Monica Soliman & Roger Buehler
Journal of Behavioral Decision Making, forthcoming


How do evaluators form comparative judgments of improved versus consistently strong performance records with equivalent recent performance? We propose that evaluators judge those with improved records to be more deserving of future opportunities (e.g., a promotion) and that this can be explained - at least in part - by perceptions of effort investments. Specifically, evaluators rely on improvement to judge effort and hence devalue consistent strong performance. Five studies supported these propositions. Evaluators perceived greater effort investment and trait effort in individuals with improved profiles than those with consistent profiles and consequently thought that those with improved profiles were more deserving of future opportunities. We discuss implications of these results across various decision contexts.

The Effect of an Interruption on Risk Decisions
Daniella Kupor, Wendy Liu & On Amir
Journal of Consumer Research, forthcoming


Interruptions during consumer decision making are ubiquitous. In seven studies, we examine the consequences of a brief interruption during a financial risk decision. We identify a fundamental feature inherent in an interruption's temporal structure - a repeat exposure to the decision stimuli - and find that this re-exposure reduces decision stimuli's subjective novelty. This reduced novelty in turn reduces decision makers' apprehension and increases the amount of risk that they take in a wide range of financial risky decision contexts. Consistent with our theoretical framework, this interruption effect disappears when a stimulus's subjective novelty is restored after an interruption. We further find that these consequences are unique to interruptions and do not result from other interventions (e.g., time pressure and elongated thinking); this is because an interruption's unique temporal structure (which results in a repeat exposure to the decision stimuli) underlies its consequences. Our findings shed light on how and when interruptions during decision making can influence risk taking.

Putting the Art in Artificial: Aesthetic Responses to Computer-Generated Art
Rebecca Chamberlain et al.
Psychology of Aesthetics, Creativity, and the Arts, forthcoming


As artificial intelligence (AI) technology increasingly becomes a feature of everyday life, it is important to understand how creative acts, regarded as uniquely human, can be valued if produced by a machine. The current studies sought to investigate how observers respond to works of visual art created either by humans or by computers. Study 1 tested observers' ability to discriminate between computer-generated and man-made art, and then examined how categorization of art works impacted on perceived aesthetic value, revealing a bias against computer-generated art. In Study 2 this bias was reproduced in the context of robotic art; however, it was found to be reversed when observers were given the opportunity to see robotic artists in action. These findings reveal an explicit prejudice against computer-generated art, driven largely by the kind of art observers believe computer algorithms are capable of producing. These prejudices can be overridden in circumstances in which observers are able to infer anthropomorphic characteristics in the computer programs, a finding which has implications for the future of artistic AI.

Poor Metacognitive Awareness of Belief Change
Michael Wolfe & Todd Williams
Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology, forthcoming


When people change beliefs as a result of reading a text, are they aware of these changes? This question was examined for beliefs about spanking as an effective means of discipline. In two experiments, subjects reported beliefs about spanking effectiveness during a prescreening session. In a subsequent experimental session, subjects read a one-sided text that advocated a belief consistent or inconsistent position on the topic. After reading, subjects reported their current beliefs and attempted to recollect their initial beliefs. Subjects reading a belief inconsistent text were more likely to change their beliefs than those who read a belief consistent text. Recollections of initial beliefs tended to be biased in the direction of subjects' current beliefs. In addition, the relationship between the belief consistency of the text read and accuracy of belief recollections was mediated by belief change. This belief memory bias was independent of on-line text processing and comprehension measures, and indicates poor metacognitive awareness of belief change.

Delegating Decisions: Recruiting Others to Make Choices We Might Regret
Mary Steffel & Elanor Williams
Journal of Consumer Research, forthcoming


Consumers typically prefer freedom of choice, but when faced with a choice they might regret, they may prefer freedom from choice. Eight experiments show that people delegate difficult decisions, regardless of the decision's importance, and regardless of their potential surrogate's expertise. Delegation stems from a desire to avoid responsibility for potentially making the wrong choice rather than simply the desire to avoid the possibility of a poor outcome: although anticipated disappointment with the outcome and anticipated regret about one's decision both contribute to the decision to delegate, only anticipated regret directly leads people to delegate choices to others. Consequently, delegation is an appealing method for coping with difficult choices while allowing consumers to retain the benefits of choosing that they would forgo by opting out of the choice. Moreover, giving people the option to delegate makes them less prone to walk away from difficult choices empty-handed.

Middle Ground Approach to Paradox: Within- and Between-Culture Examination of the Creative Benefits of Paradoxical Frames
Angela Leung et al.
Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, forthcoming


Thriving in increasingly complex and ambiguous environments requires creativity and the capability to reconcile conflicting demands. Recent evidence with Western samples has suggested that paradoxical frames, or mental templates that encourage individuals to recognize and embrace contradictions, could produce creative benefits. We extended the timely, but understudied, topic by studying the nuances of for whom and why creative advantages of paradoxical frames emerge. We suggest that people endorsing a middle ground approach are less likely to scrutinize conflict and reconcile with integrative solutions, thus receiving less creative benefits of paradoxical frames. Five studies that examined individual and cultural differences in middle ground endorsement support our theory. Study 1 found that paradoxical frames increased creativity, but failed to replicate that experienced conflict mediated the relationship in a Taiwanese sample. In both within- and between-culture analysis, we showed that the creative advantages of thinking paradoxically and experiencing conflict emerged among individuals who endorse lower (vs. higher) levels of middle ground (Study 2) and among Israelis whose culture predominantly endorses middle ground strategy less, but not among Singaporeans whose culture predominantly endorses middle ground more (Study 3). Study 4 further demonstrated the causal role of middle ground in the paradox-conflict-creativity link. To answer "why," Study 5 situationally induced integrative complex thinking that sets distinctions and forms syntheses among contradictory elements, and found that low endorsers of middle ground performed more creatively when they engaged integrative complex thinking to cope with paradoxes. This program of studies offers important insights on harnessing paradoxical experiences to catalyze creativity.

Small Cues Change Savings Choices
James Choi et al.
Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, October 2017, Pages 378-395


We present evidence from randomized field experiments that 401(k) savings choices are significantly affected by one- to two-sentence anchoring, goal-setting, or savings threshold cues embedded in emails sent to employees about their 401(k) plan. Even though these cues contain little to no marginal information, cues that make high savings rates salient increased 401(k) contribution rates by up to 2.9% of income in a pay period, and cues that make low savings rates salient decreased 401(k) contribution rates by up to 1.4% of income in a pay period. Cue effects persist between two months and a year after the email.

Disentangling the effects of serotonin on risk perception: S-carriers of 5-HTTLPR are primarily concerned with the magnitude of the outcomes, not the uncertainty
Philip Millroth et al.
Behavioral Neuroscience, October 2017, Pages 421-427


Serotonin signaling is vital for reward processing, and hence, also for decision-making. The serotonin transporter gene linked polymorphic region (5-HTTLPR) has been connected to decision making, suggesting that short-allele carriers (s) are more risk averse than long-allele homozygotes (ll). However, previous research has not identified if this occurs because s-carriers (i) are more sensitive to the uncertainty of the outcomes or (ii) are more sensitive to the magnitude of the outcomes. This issue was disentangled using a willingness-to-pay task, where the participants evaluated prospects involving certain gains, uncertain gains, and ambiguous gains. The results clearly favored the hypothesis that s-carriers react more to the magnitude of the outcomes. Self-reported measures of everyday risk-taking behavior also favored this hypothesis. We discuss how these results are in line with recent research on the serotonergic impact on reward processing.

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