Avoiding the Risk of Responsibility by Seeking Uncertainty: Responsibility Aversion and Preference for Indirect Agency When Choosing for Others
James M. Leonhardt
New Mexico State University - Department of Marketing
L. Robin Keller
University of California, Irvine - Operations and Decision Technologies (ODT)
University of California, Irvine - Marketing Area
October 1, 2011
Journal of Consumer Psychology, Vol. 21, No. 4, pp. 405-413, 2011
Uncertainty-seeking behavior is currently understood as the result of loss aversion which motivates a preference for the possibility to avoid or lessen an otherwise sure loss. However, when choosing among negative options on behalf of others, we offer responsibility aversion as another possible motive for uncertainty-seeking behavior. Within our conceptual model, responsibility aversion is defined as the preference to minimize one's causal role in outcome generation. Compared to certain options, uncertain options lessen the decision maker's causal role in outcome generation because the outcomes are partially determined by chance. The presence of chance increases indirect agency on behalf of the decision maker and lessens his or her perceived risk of responsibility. The results of five studies support a responsibility aversion motivation behind uncertainty-seeking behavior.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 30
Keywords: uncertainty, responsibility, loss aversion, indirect agency, decision making, indirect harm, Asian disease problem
JEL Classification: C91, D80, M31
Date posted: March 5, 2012
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