A Group Construal Account of Drop-in-The-Bucket Thinking in Policy Preference and Moral Judgment

Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, Vol. 47, pp. 50-57, 2011

Columbia Business School Research Paper No. 11-16

8 Pages Posted: 6 Oct 2011  

Daniel M. Bartels

University of Chicago - Booth School of Business

Russell C Burnett

affiliation not provided to SSRN

Date Written: October 3, 2011

Abstract

Decisions, both moral and mundane, about saving individuals or resources at risk are often influenced not only by numbers saved and lost, but also by proportions of groups saved and lost. Consider choosing between a program that saves 60 of 240 lives at risk and one that saves 50 of 100. The first option maximizes absolute number saved; the second, proportion saved. In two studies, we show that the influence of proportions on such decisions depends on how items at risk are mentally represented. In particular, we show that proportions have greater influence on people's decisions to the extent that the items at risk are construed as forming groups, as opposed to distinct individuals. Construal was manipulated by means of animated displays in which resources at risk moved either independently (promoting individual construal) or jointly (promoting group construal). Results support the hypothesis that (a) decision makers form mental representations which vary in the degree to which resources at risk are construed as groups versus individuals and (b) construal of resources as groups promotes the influence of proportions on decisions and moral judgments.

Keywords: Decision making, Proportion dominance, Entitativity, Individuation, Moral reasoning, Moral judgment, Identifiable victim effect

Suggested Citation

Bartels, Daniel M. and Burnett, Russell C, A Group Construal Account of Drop-in-The-Bucket Thinking in Policy Preference and Moral Judgment (October 3, 2011). Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, Vol. 47, pp. 50-57, 2011; Columbia Business School Research Paper No. 11-16. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1937817

Daniel M. Bartels (Contact Author)

University of Chicago - Booth School of Business ( email )

5807 S. Woodlawn Avenue
Chicago, IL 60637
United States

Russell C Burnett

affiliation not provided to SSRN ( email )

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