People Prefer Moral Discretion to Procedurally Fair Algorithms: Algorithm Aversion Beyond Intransparency

30 Pages Posted: 1 Jun 2021 Last revised: 25 Apr 2022

See all articles by Johanna Jauernig

Johanna Jauernig

Leibniz Institute of Agricultural Development in Transition Economies (IAMO)

Matthias Uhl

University of Applied Sciences Ingolstadt

Gari Walkowitz

Technische Universität München (TUM) - School of Governance - Hochschule für Politik; Technische Universität München (TUM) - School of Governance - Hochschule für Politik

Date Written: May 31, 2021

Abstract

We explore aversion to the use of algorithms in moral decision-making. So far, this aversion has been explained mainly by the fear of opaque decisions that are potentially biased. Using incentivized experiments, we study which role the desire for human discretion in moral decision-making plays. This seems justified in light of evidence suggesting that people might not doubt the quality of algorithmic decisions, but still reject them. In our first study, we found that people prefer humans with decision-making discretion to algorithms that rigidly apply exogenously given human-created fairness principles to specific cases. In the second study, we found that people do not prefer humans to algorithms because they appreciate flesh-and-blood decision-makers per se, but because they appreciate humans’ freedom to transcend fairness principles at will. Our results contribute to a deeper understanding of algorithm aversion. They indicate that emphasizing the transparency of algorithms that clearly follow fairness principles might not be the only element for fostering societal algorithm acceptance and suggest reconsidering certain features of the decision-making process.

Keywords: algorithm aversion, artificial intelligence, moral discretion, behavioral ethics

JEL Classification: O33, D91, C91

Suggested Citation

Jauernig, Johanna and Uhl, Matthias and Walkowitz, Gari and Walkowitz, Gari, People Prefer Moral Discretion to Procedurally Fair Algorithms: Algorithm Aversion Beyond Intransparency (May 31, 2021). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3857292 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3857292

Johanna Jauernig

Leibniz Institute of Agricultural Development in Transition Economies (IAMO) ( email )

Theodor-Lieser-Str.2
Halle, 06120
Germany

Matthias Uhl

University of Applied Sciences Ingolstadt ( email )

Esplanade 10
Ingolstadt, D-85049
United States

Gari Walkowitz (Contact Author)

Technische Universität München (TUM) - School of Governance - Hochschule für Politik ( email )

Richard-Wagner-Str.1
Munich, 80333
Germany

Technische Universität München (TUM) - School of Governance - Hochschule für Politik ( email )

Richard-Wagner-Str.1
Munich, 80333
Germany

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