The effects of discussion on group and individual choices among bets

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Abstract

The effects of discussion on subsequent group and individual choices are studied in a situation where subjects choose between a sure gain of varying amount and five probability levels associated with larger gains of expected value equal to that of the sure gain. At the end of the experiment, a single bet, chosen at random, is played for money. Before discussion, subjects have to guess the percentage of similar, more risky and more cautious choices made by their peers for each of the six bets. As predicted by a majority-rule decision-making model significant risky shifts were observed for relatively low values of sure gain. For higher values, however, groups tended to be more cautious than individuals. The final private choices of individuals were significantly more risky than their initial decisions. Most individuals apparently thought they were at least as risky as most others. This finding was due, however, primarily to the responses of subjects who chose the highest risk-level (the ceiling effect) and, secondly, to the consistent tendency of most individuals to guess that others make the same choices as they themselves. It is concluded that majority influence seems a satisfactory explanation of group risky shifts observed in the present study, but it cannot account for modifications of group and individual choices in all risk-taking situations.

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