Human Decision Making with Machine Assistance: An Experiment on Bailing and Jailing
25 Pages Posted: 12 Oct 2019 Last revised: 8 Nov 2019
Date Written: 2019
Much of political debate focuses on the concern that machines might take over. Yet in many domains it is much more plausible that the ultimate choice and responsibility remain with a human decision-maker, but that she is provided with machine advice. A quintessential illustration is the decision of a judge to bail or jail a defendant. In multiple jurisdictions in the US, judges have access to a machine prediction about a defendant’s recidivism risk. In our study, we explore how receiving machine advice influences people’s bail decisions.
We run a vignette experiment with laypersons whom we test on a subsample of cases from the database of this prediction tool. In study 1, we ask them to predict whether defendants will recidivate before tried, and manipulate whether they have access to machine advice. We find that receiving machine advice has a small effect, which is biased in the direction of predicting no recidivism.
In the field, human decision makers sometimes have a chance, after the fact, to learn whether the machine has given good advice. In study 2, after each trial we inform participants of ground truth. This does not make it more likely that they follow the advice, despite the fact that the machine is (on average) slightly more accurate than real judges. This also holds if initially the advice is mostly correct, or if it initially is mostly to predict (no) recidivism.
Real judges know that their decisions affect defendants’ lives. They may also be concerned about reelection or promotion. Hence a lot is at stake. In study 3 we emulate high stakes by giving participants a financial incentive. An incentive to find the ground truth, or to avoid false positive or false negatives, does not make participants more sensitive to machine advice. But an incentive to follow the advice is effective.
Keywords: Machine-Assisted Decision Making; Human-Centered Machine Learning; Algorithmic Decision Making; Algorithmic Fairness, Accountability and Transparency
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