Findings

You have a choice

Kevin Lewis

August 26, 2014

The wisdom of select crowds

Albert Mannes, Jack Soll & Richard Larrick
Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, August 2014, Pages 276-299

Abstract:
Social psychologists have long recognized the power of statisticized groups. When individual judgments about some fact (e.g., the unemployment rate for next quarter) are averaged together, the average opinion is typically more accurate than most of the individual estimates, a pattern often referred to as the wisdom of crowds. The accuracy of averaging also often exceeds that of the individual perceived as most knowledgeable in the group. However, neither averaging nor relying on a single judge is a robust strategy; each performs well in some settings and poorly in others. As an alternative, we introduce the select-crowd strategy, which ranks judges based on a cue to ability (e.g., the accuracy of several recent judgments) and averages the opinions of the top judges, such as the top 5. Through both simulation and an analysis of 90 archival data sets, we show that select crowds of 5 knowledgeable judges yield very accurate judgments across a wide range of possible settings — the strategy is both accurate and robust. Following this, we examine how people prefer to use information from a crowd. Previous research suggests that people are distrustful of crowds and of mechanical processes such as averaging. We show in 3 experiments that, as expected, people are drawn to experts and dislike crowd averages — but, critically, they view the select-crowd strategy favorably and are willing to use it. The select-crowd strategy is thus accurate, robust, and appealing as a mechanism for helping individuals tap collective wisdom.

----------------------

Free will is about choosing: The link between choice and the belief in free will

Gilad Feldman, Roy Baumeister & Kin Fai Ellick Wong
Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, November 2014, Pages 239–245

Abstract:
Expert opinions have yielded a wide and controversial assortment of conceptions of free will, but laypersons seem to associate free will more simply with making choices. We found that the more strongly people believed in free will, the more they liked making choices, the higher they rated their ability to make decisions (Study 1), the less difficult they perceived making decisions, and the more satisfied they were with their decisions (Study 2). High free will belief was also associated with more spontaneous associating of choice with freedom, and with the perception of actions as choices. Recalling choices (Study 3) and making choices (Study 4) led to a stronger endorsement of the belief in free will, and an additional effect of the level of choice involved in the choice. These findings suggest that the everyday social reality of beliefs about free will is a matter of how people think and feel about choice.

----------------------

When Knowledge Is Demotivating: Subjective Knowledge and Choice Overload

Liat Hadar & Sanjay Sood
Psychological Science, forthcoming

Abstract:
People find it appealing to have more options to choose from, but the provision of choice often leads to adverse consequences for decision makers’ motivation, satisfaction, and willingness to act. We propose that the effect of the number of choice options on willingness to purchase is moderated by people’s subjective knowledge (SK). The results of three studies provide converging evidence that, paradoxically, people who feel unknowledgeable (low-SK people) in a certain domain are especially willing to purchase when more choice options are available, which is consistent with the notion of “more is better.” This pattern is reversed for people who feel knowledgeable (high-SK people), which is consistent with prior evidence for choice overload. We also show that this pattern is influenced by the informativeness of the features of the available choice options and that subjective knowledge mediates this effect.

----------------------

Money is No Object: Testing the Endowment Effect in Exchange Goods

Daniel Svirsky
Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, October 2014, Pages 227–234

Abstract:
We present a new experimental design to test whether the endowment effect exists for exchange goods, like money. We compare three groups to a baseline: one endowed with money, one endowed with chocolate coins, and one endowed with chocolate coins described as “tokens.” We find an endowment effect for chocolate coins, but no endowment effect for money or for chocolate coins when they are described as tokens. The results suggest that the endowment effect does not exist for exchange goods.

----------------------

Effect of an Interviewer's Tactile Contact on Willingness to Disclose Voting Choice

Nicolas Guéguen
Social Behavior and Personality, Summer 2014, Pages 1003-1006

Abstract:
The positive effect of tactile contact on compliance has been widely reported in the literature. However, the effect of touch on willingness to disclose confidential information has never been studied. Two days after European Parliamentary elections, people who were walking by in the street were asked by an interviewer who was unknown to them, to reveal for which candidate they had voted. According to a random distribution, some of the people who were questioned were slightly touched on the forearm by the interviewer during the formulation of the request but the rest of the participants were not touched. Results showed that, compared with the participants who were not touched, those who were touched were more likely to be willing to disclose their voting preference (88.6% of the touched group vs. 63.3% of the no-touch group), suggesting that touch is a facilitator of self-revelation.

----------------------

Reference-Dependent Preferences: Evidence from Marathon Runners

Eric Allen et al.
NBER Working Paper, July 2014

Abstract:
Models of reference-dependent preferences propose that individuals evaluate outcomes as gains or losses relative to a neutral reference point. We test for reference dependence in a large dataset of marathon finishing times (n = 9,524,071). Models of reference-dependent preferences such as prospect theory predict bunching of finishing times at reference points. We provide visual and statistical evidence that round numbers (e.g., a four-hour marathon) serve as reference points in this environment and as a result produce significant bunching of performance at these round numbers. Bunching is driven by planning and adjustments in effort provision near the finish line and cannot be explained by explicit rewards (e.g., qualifying for the Boston Marathon), peer effects, or institutional features (e.g., pacesetters). We calibrate a simple model of prospect theory as well as other models of reference dependence and show that the basic qualitative shape of the empirical distribution of finishing times is consistent with parameters that have previously been estimated in the laboratory.

----------------------

Algorithm Aversion: People Erroneously Avoid Algorithms after Seeing Them Err

Berkeley Dietvorst, Joseph Simmons & Cade Massey
University of Pennsylvania Working Paper, July 2014

Abstract:
Research shows that evidence-based algorithms more accurately predict the future than do human forecasters. Yet, when forecasters are deciding whether to use a human forecaster or a statistical algorithm, they often choose the human forecaster. This phenomenon, which we call algorithm aversion, is costly, and it is important to understand its causes. We show that people are especially averse to algorithmic forecasters after seeing them perform, even when they see them outperform a human forecaster. This is because people more quickly lose confidence in algorithmic than human forecasters after seeing them make the same mistake. In five studies, participants either saw an algorithm make forecasts, a human make forecasts, both, or neither. They then decided whether to tie their incentives to the future predictions of the algorithm or the human. Participants who saw the algorithm perform were less confident in it, and less likely to choose it over an inferior human forecaster. This was true even among those who saw the algorithm outperform the human.

----------------------

Surprisingly rational: Probability theory plus noise explains biases in judgment

Fintan Costello & Paul Watts
Psychological Review, July 2014, Pages 463-480

Abstract:
The systematic biases seen in people’s probability judgments are typically taken as evidence that people do not use the rules of probability theory when reasoning about probability but instead use heuristics, which sometimes yield reasonable judgments and sometimes yield systematic biases. This view has had a major impact in economics, law, medicine, and other fields; indeed, the idea that people cannot reason with probabilities has become a truism. We present a simple alternative to this view, where people reason about probability according to probability theory but are subject to random variation or noise in the reasoning process. In this account the effect of noise is canceled for some probabilistic expressions. Analyzing data from 2 experiments, we find that, for these expressions, people’s probability judgments are strikingly close to those required by probability theory. For other expressions, this account produces systematic deviations in probability estimates. These deviations explain 4 reliable biases in human probabilistic reasoning (conservatism, subadditivity, conjunction, and disjunction fallacies). These results suggest that people’s probability judgments embody the rules of probability theory and that biases in those judgments are due to the effects of random noise.

----------------------

Passport Officers’ Errors in Face Matching

David White et al.
PLoS ONE, August 2014

Abstract:
Photo-ID is widely used in security settings, despite research showing that viewers find it very difficult to match unfamiliar faces. Here we test participants with specialist experience and training in the task: passport-issuing officers. First, we ask officers to compare photos to live ID-card bearers, and observe high error rates, including 14% false acceptance of ‘fraudulent’ photos. Second, we compare passport officers with a set of student participants, and find equally poor levels of accuracy in both groups. Finally, we observe that passport officers show no performance advantage over the general population on a standardised face-matching task. Across all tasks, we observe very large individual differences: while average performance of passport staff was poor, some officers performed very accurately – though this was not related to length of experience or training. We propose that improvements in security could be made by emphasising personnel selection.

----------------------

Scarcity Polarizes Preferences: The Impact on Choice Among Multiple Items in a Product Class

Meng Zhu & Rebecca Ratner
Journal of Marketing Research, forthcoming

Abstract:
This research examines how the salience of scarcity influences choices of individual items from a product class. The authors propose that overall perception of scarcity versus overall perception of abundance increases choice share of the most-preferred item from a product class. The authors argue that this occurs because scarcity induces arousal and the heightened arousal polarizes the evaluations of individual items contained in the choice set. Results from five experiments show that scarcity versus abundance broadens the discrepancy between the liking of the favorite and non-favorite items, and leads to higher choice share of the favorite item. Results support the arousal-based explanation, demonstrating that the effect of scarcity salience on choices is mediated by consumers' reported arousal level and moderated by experimentally induced arousal state.

----------------------

No product is perfect: The positive influence of acknowledging the negative

Bruce Pfeiffer et al.
Thinking & Reasoning, Fall 2014, Pages 500-512

Abstract:
Negative acknowledgement is an impression management technique that uses the admission of an unfavourable quality to mitigate a negative response. Although the technique has been clearly demonstrated, the underlying process is not well understood. The current research identifies a key mediator and moderator while also demonstrating that the effect extends beyond the specific acknowledged domain to the overall evaluation of a target object. The results of study 1 indicate that negative acknowledgement works through mitigating negatively valenced cognitive responses. People who are presented with a negative acknowledgement are less likely to counterargue when forming an evaluation. The results of study 2 reveal that individual differences in need for structure impact the effectiveness of the technique. People who are high in need for structure are more susceptible to the effect presumably because of their desire for easy-to-use information that aids the formation and maintenance of simple knowledge structures.

----------------------

The primal mark: How the beginning shapes the end in the development of creative ideas

Justin Berg
Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, September 2014, Pages 1–17

Abstract:
While creative ideas are defined as both novel and useful, novelty and usefulness often diverge, making it difficult to develop ideas that are high in both. To explain this tradeoff between novelty and usefulness and how it can be overcome, this paper introduces the concept of the “primal mark” — i.e., the first bit of content employees start with as they generate ideas, which anchors the trajectory of novelty and usefulness. In four experiments, participants started with primal marks that contained varying degrees of novelty. Results suggest that familiar primal marks foster usefulness at the expense of novelty, while new primal marks foster novelty at the expense of usefulness. However, the results also suggest a solution to this tradeoff: integrative primal marks that combine new and familiar content, fostering an optimal balance of novelty and usefulness. Implications for theory and research on creativity in organizations are discussed.

----------------------

Small Differences that Matter: The Impact of Discussion Modalities on Deliberative Outcomes

Lucio Baccaro, André Bächtiger & Marion Deville
British Journal of Political Science, forthcoming

Abstract:
An experiment on the extension of the political rights of foreigners in the Swiss city of Geneva used three different procedural ways to structure deliberation: participants take positions at the outset, do not take positions, and reflect first. Most opinion change occurred when participants did not have to take a position at the outset. However, no learning effects were recorded, the deliberative quality was poor and group influence had the greatest impact. When participants had to take a position at the outset, opinion change and group influence were least, but there was significant learning, and the deliberative quality was better. These results indicate a potential trade-off between opinion change – which many scholars equate with deliberative success – and good procedural deliberative quality.

----------------------

Asymmetric Predictability and Cognitive Competition in Football Penalty Shootouts

Erman Misirlisoy & Patrick Haggard
Current Biology, 18 August 2014, Pages 1918–1922

Abstract:
Sports provide powerful demonstrations of cognitive strategies underlying competitive behavior. Penalty shootouts in football (soccer) involve direct competition between elite players and absorb the attention of millions. The penalty shootout between Germany and England in the 1990 World Cup semifinal was viewed by an estimated 46.49% of the UK population. In a penalty shootout, a goalkeeper must defend their goal without teammate assistance while an opposing series of kickers aim to kick the ball past them into the net. As in many sports, the ball during a penalty kick often approaches too quickly for the goalkeeper to react to its direction of motion; instead, the goalkeeper must guess the likely direction of the kick, and dive in anticipation, if they are to have a chance of saving the shot. We examined all 361 kicks from the 37 penalty shootouts that occurred in World Cup and Euro Cup matches over a 36-year period from 1976 to 2012 and show that goalkeepers displayed a clear sequential bias. Following repeated kicks in the same direction, goalkeepers became increasingly likely to dive in the opposite direction on the next kick. Surprisingly, kickers failed to exploit these goalkeeper biases. Our findings highlight the importance of monitoring and predicting sequential behavior in real-world competition. Penalty shootouts pit one goalkeeper against several kickers in rapid succession. Asymmetries in the cognitive capacities of an individual versus a group could produce significant advantages over opponents.

----------------------

The Allure of Unknown Outcomes: Exploring the Role of Uncertainty in the Preference for Potential

Daniella Kupor, Zakary Tormala & Michael Norton
Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, November 2014, Pages 210–216

Abstract:
Influence practitioners often highlight a target’s achievements (e.g., “she is the city’s top-rated chef”), but recent research reveals that highlighting a target’s potential (e.g., “she could become the city’s top-rated chef”) can be more effective. We examine whether the uncertainty inherent in potential is crucial to its appeal by exploring whether the preference for potential depends on individual and situational differences in tolerance for uncertainty. In two studies in two different categories (comedians and restaurants), we measure and manipulate tolerance for uncertainty to show that the preference for potential emerges when tolerance for uncertainty is high, but not low. We further show that the uncertainty surrounding potential fosters greater interest and deeper processing when tolerance for uncertainty is high, which in turn promotes more favorable reactions. Thus, the current research reveals when and why emphasizing potential is more effective than emphasizing achievement, illuminating the key role of uncertainty in driving this effect.

----------------------

Emotions Shape Decisions Through Construal Level: The Case of Guilt and Shame

DaHee Han, Adam Duhachek & Nidhi Agrawal
Journal of Consumer Research, forthcoming

Abstract:
Four experiments show that emotions systematically influence judgments and persuasion by altering construal levels. Guilt-laden consumers, relative to those who were shame-laden, adopted lower levels of construal. In subsequent unrelated judgments, guilt increased reliance on feasibility over desirability attributes and emphasized secondary rather than primary features. Shame led to the opposite pattern. Guilt’s tendency to draw behavior-specific appraisals activates local appraisal tendencies and endows lower construal levels whereas shame’s tendency to implicate the entire self activates global appraisal tendencies and endows consumers with higher construal levels. As a boundary condition to the core effect, the results showed that the differences between guilt and shame only held when the emotions arose from actions rather than from inaction situations. These findings provide insight into when and why guilt and shame have different effects on subsequent decisions.

----------------------

Super-Underweighting of Rare Events with Repeated Descriptive Summaries

Eldad Yechiam, Tim Rakow & Ben Newell
Journal of Behavioral Decision Making, forthcoming

Abstract:
Field studies suggest that providing summarized information concerning the prevalence of risks can increase risk taking when the hazard is rare. We study a simple experimental model of this phenomenon based on repeated descriptive summaries of past outcomes. Under cumulative prospect theory and experience-sampling models, descriptions of rare events should increase the weighting of rare events. On the other hand, if individuals are sensitive to the frequency of events, then event summaries are expected to accentuate the underweighting of rare events despite adding descriptive information. These contrasting predictions were examined in three experiments using a multi-alternative decision task with two sets of options: safe and risky. In all three experiments, repeated descriptive summaries of past outcomes from all alternatives or from a randomly drawn alternative were found to accentuate the underweighting of rare events by a similar amount. The results shed light on the role of frequency-based judgments in the extreme underweighting of rare events and highlight that providing information about the incidence of rare hazards can have the unintended effect of increasing, rather than decreasing, people's propensity to take risks.

----------------------

Proleader and antitrailer information distortion and their effects on choice and postchoice memory

Michael DeKay et al.
Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, forthcoming

Abstract:
In four experiments involving choices between apartments, we decomposed predecisional information distortion into positive distortion of information about the tentatively leading alternative and negative distortion of information about the trailing alternative(s). Proleader and antitrailer distortion were roughly symmetric, with similar magnitudes in all but one test. Additionally, proleader and antitrailer distortion predicted choice with similar coefficients in all but one test. Distortion predicted choice when we used participants’ own “true” preferences as the baseline for assessing distortion and when we considered only identical information items that did not distinguish between apartments (“true” preferences cancel out for such items). Finally, predecisional distortion of apartments’ attributes predicted participants’ postdecision memories for those attributes, with positive and negative distortions predicting corresponding memory errors. This effect appears to reflect the predecisional encoding of information about the leading and trailing alternatives rather than a response bias or other postdecision process favoring the chosen alternative.

----------------------

Using metacognitive cues to infer others’ thinking

André Mata & Tiago Almeida
Judgment and Decision Making, July 2014, Pages 349–359

Abstract:
Three studies tested whether people use cues about the way other people think — for example, whether others respond fast vs. slow — to infer what responses other people might give to reasoning problems. People who solve reasoning problems using deliberative thinking have better insight than intuitive problem-solvers into the responses that other people might give to the same problems. Presumably because deliberative responders think of intuitive responses before they think of deliberative responses, they are aware that others might respond intuitively, particularly in circumstances that hinder deliberative thinking (e.g., fast responding). Intuitive responders, on the other hand, are less aware of alternative responses to theirs, so they infer that other people respond as they do, regardless of the way others respond.

----------------------

Peer Assessment of Aviation Performance: Inconsistent for Good Reasons

Wolff-Michael Roth & Timothy Mavin
Cognitive Science, forthcoming

Abstract:
Research into expertise is relatively common in cognitive science concerning expertise existing across many domains. However, much less research has examined how experts within the same domain assess the performance of their peer experts. We report the results of a modified think-aloud study conducted with 18 pilots (6 first officers, 6 captains, and 6 flight examiners). Pairs of same-ranked pilots were asked to rate the performance of a captain flying in a critical pre-recorded simulator scenario. Findings reveal (a) considerable variance within performance categories, (b) differences in the process used as evidence in support of a performance rating, (c) different numbers and types of facts (cues) identified, and (d) differences in how specific performance events affect choice of performance category and gravity of performance assessment. Such variance is consistent with low inter-rater reliability. Because raters exhibited good, albeit imprecise, reasons and facts, a fuzzy mathematical model of performance rating was developed. The model provides good agreement with observed variations.

----------------------

Responsibility judgments of wins and losses in the 2013 chess championship

Gro Hege Haraldsen Nordbye & Karl Halvor Teigen
Judgment and Decision Making, July 2014, Pages 335–348

Abstract:
We report two studies on the perceived responsibility of opponents competing for a goal that can be attained by only one of them. Responsibility judgments were collected in seven samples of lay people and experts before, during, and after the World Chess Championship in 2013. Participants assessed the responsibility of the two players, their supporting teams, local conditions, and chance factors for four hypothetical outcomes (large and small loss/win for each player), along with probabilities for these outcomes, demonstrating subadditivity (sums exceeding 100%) in all samples, even among chess experts. The winner was consistently perceived to be more responsible than the loser, and more for outcomes with large than small margins. There was also an effect of focal player, as Carlsen was given more responsibility both for losses and wins than Anand, by the present (Norwegian) pro-Carlsen samples. However, this effect could be modified by describing the outcomes as Anand’s (rather than Carlsen’s) wins and losses. Thus the study adds to the valence framing literature by showing how responsibility judgments are affected by the way outcomes are framed.

----------------------

Decision time as information in judgment and choice

Philippe Van de Calseyde, Gideon Keren & Marcel Zeelenberg
Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, forthcoming

Abstract:
People often observe others’ decisions and the corresponding time it took them to reach the decision. Following a signaling perspective, we demonstrate that people derive information from the time that others needed in reaching a decision. Specifically, the findings of multiple experiments and a field study using data from the television show The Voice reveal that decision times are perceived as indicative of the degree of doubt that the decision maker experienced. In turn, these inferences of doubt reliably affected people’s preferences such as with whom to collaborate and negotiate, even when the collaboration would yield a normatively inferior outcome. These results are incompatible with the idea that an alternative will be chosen only on the basis of its outcomes. We portray a model that incorporates others’ decision times as a component of the choice process. Implications for how choices are affected by both outcomes and signals are discussed.


Sign-in to your National Affairs subscriber account.


Already a subscriber? Activate your account.


subscribe

Unlimited access to intelligent essays on the nation’s affairs.

SUBSCRIBE
Subscribe to National Affairs.