Avoiding the Risk of Responsibility by Seeking Uncertainty: Responsibility Aversion and Preference for Indirect Agency When Choosing for Others

Journal of Consumer Psychology, Vol. 21, No. 4, pp. 405-413, 2011

30 Pages Posted: 5 Mar 2012  

James M. Leonhardt

New Mexico State University - Department of Marketing

L. Robin Keller

University of California, Irvine - Operations and Decision Technologies (ODT)

Connie Pechmann

University of California, Irvine - Marketing Area

Date Written: October 1, 2011

Abstract

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.

Keywords: uncertainty, responsibility, loss aversion, indirect agency, decision making, indirect harm, Asian disease problem

JEL Classification: C91, D80, M31

Suggested Citation

Leonhardt, James M. and Keller, L. Robin and Pechmann, Connie, Avoiding the Risk of Responsibility by Seeking Uncertainty: Responsibility Aversion and Preference for Indirect Agency When Choosing for Others (October 1, 2011). Journal of Consumer Psychology, Vol. 21, No. 4, pp. 405-413, 2011. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2015956

James M. Leonhardt (Contact Author)

New Mexico State University - Department of Marketing ( email )

United States

L. Robin Keller

University of California, Irvine - Operations and Decision Technologies (ODT) ( email )

Irvine, CA 92697
United States

Connie Pechmann

University of California, Irvine - Marketing Area ( email )

Irvine, CA
United States

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