Social value related response latencies: Unobtrusive evidence for individual differences in information processing



While much research concerning decision-making in interdependency situations concentrates on the influence of social values or different preferences for certain distributions of outcomes for self and other (McClintock, 1978), little attention has been paid to the cognitive processes underlying the expression of these different social values. The present research focuses on the cognitive processes by examining the influence of the dominant social values on decision-makers' response latencies (RLs) in interdependency situations. Using the Ring Measure of Social Values (Liebrand 1984), three experiments were conducted to assess these RLs. Experiment 1 examines the reliability of the social value construct and the RL effect. Experiments 2 and 3 investigate the generality of the RL effect across presentation of combinations of own and other's outcomes (all positive versus all negative). As predicted, RLs were shorter for individualists than for cooperators and competitors. Further, regardless of values, shorter RLs occurred across experiments when own outcomes are positive rather than negative. More important, the predicted interaction between social value and outcome distribution was observed, reflecting increasing RLs for cooperators as their joint outcomes decreased, longer RLs for individualists when own outcomes were negative rather than positive, and longer RLs for competitors when they were outcome disadvantaged rather than advantaged relative to other. These findings are consistent with the expectation that (I) the transformations associated with different social values require different cognitive processes, and (2) subsequent to the value transformations of outcomes, RLs increase when the utility of the transformed outcome distributions decreases.