Contingency and value in social decision making

In Peter Juslin & Henry Montgomery (eds.), Judgment and Decision Making. Erlbaum. pp. 261-273 (1999)
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This chapter discusses different perspectives and trends in social decision making, especially the actual processes used by humans when they make decisions in their everyday lives or in business situations. The chapter uses cognitive psychological techniques to break down these processes and set them in their social context. Most of our decisions are made in a social context and are therefore influenced by other people. If you are at an auction and bidding on a popular item, you will try to guess how long the others will keep in the bidding race. Likewise, when you and another person have to coordinate your decision to win a card game you will also try to think about what the other person know and what s/he will do, so you can adjust your choice. In other words, you are trying to come up with a model of the person and his decision-making process. This involves the capability to think about the thoughts and intentions of others, to put yourself in another person's shoes (perspective taking), and to think recursively about your and another person's over several steps (like in a game of chess). Especially, recursive social reasoning is one of the hallmarks of social decision-making. Whereas observational, competitive and cooperative decision-making can all be seen as trying to maximize the own reward or profit, altruistic decision-making blatantly violates this axiomatic principle of behavioral economics. Yet, altruistic behavior is quite common throughout human society.

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Marcus Selart
Norwegian School of Economics


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