Social Context for Decision Making: The Presence and Role of Advisors
Jacovina, Matthew Edward
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Decision makers are often accompanied by other people who have the opportunity to act as advisors, creating a social context for their decisions. My project examined how the presence and role of advisors affect the behavior of decision makers, as well as the future behavior of the advisors. Participants played several rounds of a game based on the Monty Hall dilemma. In this game, Players initially chose one of three doors looking for a prize. Next, the computer eliminated one of the non-chosen doors. Finally, the Player chose to stay with the original door, or to switch to the other door. Mathematically, switching is twice as likely to lead to the prize. Players and Advisors completed 50 trials together and 100 trials apart. In Experiment 1, Advisors either gave advice that Players could see (the Seen condition) or they gave advice that was recorded but kept hidden from Players (the Unseen condition). Advisors in this experiment did not see Players' final responses, though they learned which decision was correct. Solo players acted as a baseline. Both Players and Advisors in the Unseen condition (as well as Solo players) outperformed Players and Advisors in the Seen condition (i.e., they switched more frequently). In Experiment 2, I added two conditions and removed the Unseen condition. In the Transparent condition, Players saw Advisors' recommendations and Advisors saw Players' final responses. In the Replay condition, advisors watched replay data from previous participants for the first 50 trials. Similar to Experiment 1, Players and Advisors in the Unseen condition (as well as the Solo player and Replay conditions) outperformed the Transparent condition. The disadvantages in the Seen and Transparent advice conditions are likely due to a higher social complexity of the social context--for example, Players may wonder whether their Advisors know something they do not, or Advisors may question why Players ignored their advice. For participants in the Unseen condition, however, this social complexity was lower and performance was better. These results demonstrate that decision makers are sensitive to both the presence and role of advisors, and that advisors are similarly sensitive to their role.