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Choice Architects Reveal a Bias Toward Positivity and Certainty

61 Pages Posted: 31 Aug 2016 Last revised: 18 Nov 2017

David P. Daniels

Stanford Graduate School of Business; Hong Kong University of Science & Technology (HKUST)

Julian J. Zlatev

Stanford Graduate School of Business

Date Written: November 16, 2017

Abstract

Biases influence important decisions, but little is known about whether and how individuals try to exploit others’ biases in strategic interactions. Choice architects – that is, people who present choices to others – must often decide between presenting choice sets with positive or certain options (influencing others toward safer options) versus presenting choice sets with negative or risky options (influencing others toward riskier options). We show that choice architects’ influence strategies are distorted toward presenting choice sets with positive or certain options, across eight experiments involving diverse samples (executives, law/business/medical students, adults) and contexts (public policy, business, medicine). These distortions appear to primarily reflect decision biases rather than social preferences, and they can cause choice architects to use influence strategies that backfire. Surprisingly, we find that people’s predictions about the directional effects of influence tactics are generally correct. Thus, prompting choice architects to consider their predictions can improve influence strategies that would otherwise backfire.

Keywords: nudges; biases; strategic decision making; social influence; choice architects; choice architecture; reflection effect; certainty effect; loss aversion

Suggested Citation

Daniels, David P. and Zlatev, Julian J., Choice Architects Reveal a Bias Toward Positivity and Certainty (November 16, 2017). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2832703

David Daniels (Contact Author)

Stanford Graduate School of Business ( email )

655 Knight Way
Stanford, CA 94305
United States

Hong Kong University of Science & Technology (HKUST) ( email )

Clearwater Bay
Kowloon, 999999
Hong Kong

Julian Zlatev

Stanford Graduate School of Business ( email )

655 Knight Way
Stanford, CA 94305-5015
United States

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