Exploiting a cognitive bias promotes cooperation in social dilemma experiments

Journal: Nature Communications

Published: 2018-07-27

DOI: 10.1038/s41467-018-05259-5

Affiliations: 10

Authors: 6

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Research Highlight

Deploy the decoy to drive decisions

© Halfdark/Getty

© Halfdark/Getty

Offering a less-desirable ‘decoy’ option can influence people’s decision making, researchers have found.

The decoy effect involves presenting a similar but slightly inferior option to subtly sway decision makers towards a target, but some studies have questioned it.

A team that included Northwestern Polytechnical University researchers rounded up 388 young volunteers to participate in a variant of ‘prisoner’s dilemma’ — a game analyzed in game theory that shows why two rational individuals are unlikely to cooperate even when both could benefit.

In the game, players could either ‘cooperate’ by giving their opponents two points but forfeiting one of their own or ‘defect’ whereby they gained one point while their opponent lost one.

Half the players had an additional ‘reward’ option, which gave the opponent three points but cost them two. While players rarely rewarded one another, the decoy option significantly increased their likelihood to cooperate.

The researchers suggest that decoys could be used to provoke voluntary collective social action.

Supported content

  1. Nature Communications 9, 2954 (2018). doi: 10.1038/s41467-018-05259-5
Institutions FC
School of Statistics and Mathematics, YUFE, China 0.17
Graduate Education and Research Training Program in Decision Science for Sustainable Society, Kyushu University, Japan 0.17
Center for Optical Imagery Analysis and Learning (OPTIMAL), NPU, China 0.08
School of Mechanical Engineering, NPU, China 0.08
Research Center of Mathematics for Social Creativity (MSC), Hokkaido University, Japan 0.08
Institute of Innovative Research (IIR), Tokyo Tech, Japan 0.08
Faculty / Graduate School of Sciences, Kyushu University, Japan 0.08
Department of Bioscience, Kwansei Gakuin University, Japan 0.08
Institute for Complex Systems (ISC), CNR, Italy 0.08
Unmanned Systems Technology Research Institute, NPU, China 0.08