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Recent research suggesting that people who maximize are less happy than those who satisfice has received considerable fanfare. The current study investigates whether this conclusion reflects the construct itself or rather how it is measured. We developed an alternative measure of maximizing tendency that is theory-based, has good psychometric properties, and predicts behavioral outcomes. In contrast to the existing maximization measure, our new measure did not correlate with life (dis)satisfaction, nor with most maladaptive personality and decision-making traits. We conclude that the interpretation of maximizers as unhappy may be due to poor measurement of the construct. We present a more reliable and valid measure for future researchers to use.
We conducted an analysis of the 13-item Maximization Scale (Schwartz et al., 2002) with the goal of establishing its factor structure, reliability and validity. We also investigated the psychometric properties of several proposed refined versions of the scale. Four sets of analyses are reported. The first analysis confirms the 3-part factor structure of the scale and assesses its reliability. The second analysis identifies those items that do not perform well on the basis of internal, external, and judgmental criteria, and develops three shorter versions of the scale. In the third analysis, the three refined versions of the scale are cross-validated to confirm dimensionality, reliability, and validity. The fourth analysis uses an experiment in an investment decision making context to assess the reliability and nomological validity of the refined scales. These analyses lead us to conclude that a shorter, 6-item Maximization Scale performs best and should be used by future researchers. It is hoped that clarification of the conceptual underpinnings of the maximization construct and development of a refined scale will enhance its use among researchers across several of the social science disciplines.
Humans and other animals are idiosyncratically sensitive to risk, either preferring or avoiding options having the same value but differing in uncertainty. Many explanations for risk sensitivity rely on the non-linear shape of a hypothesized utility curve. Because such models do not place any importance on uncertainty per se, utility curve-based accounts predict indifference between risky and riskless options that offer the same distribution of rewards. Here we show that monkeys strongly prefer uncertain gambles to alternating rewards with the same payoffs, demonstrating that uncertainty itself contributes to the appeal of risky options. Based on prior observations, we hypothesized that the appeal of the risky option is enhanced by the salience of the potential jackpot. To test this, we subtly manipulated payoffs in a second gambling task. We found that monkeys are more sensitive to small changes in the size of the large reward than to equivalent changes in the size of the small reward, indicating that they attend preferentially to the jackpots. Together, these results challenge utility curve-based accounts of risk sensitivity, and suggest that psychological factors, such as outcome salience and uncertainty itself, contribute to risky decision-making.
Several decision-making models predict that it should be possible to affect real binary choices by manipulating the relative amount of visual attention that decision-makers pay to the two alternatives. We present the results of three behavioral experiments testing this prediction. Visual attention is controlled by manipulating the amount of time subjects fixate on the two items. The manipulation has a differential impact on appetitive and aversive items. Appetitive items are 6 to 11% more likely to be chosen in the long fixation condition. In contrast, aversive items are 7% less likely to be chosen in the long fixation condition. The effect is present for primary goods, such as foods, and for higher-order durable goods, such as posters.
People prefer their own initials to other letters, influencing preferences in many domains. The “name letter effect” (Nuttin, 1987) may not apply to negatively valenced targets if people are motivated to downplay or distance themselves from negative targets associated with the self, as previous research has shown (e.g., Finch & Cialdini, 1989). In the current research we examine the relationship between same initial preferences and negatively valenced stimuli. Specifically, we examined donations to disaster relief after seven major hurricanes to test the influence of the name letter effect with negatively valenced targets. Individuals who shared an initial with the hurricane name were overrepresented among hurricane relief donors relative to the baseline distribution of initials in the donor population. This finding suggests that people may seek to ameliorate the negative effects of a disaster when there are shared characteristics between the disaster and the self.
Which statement conveys greater risk: “100 people die from cancer every day” or “36,500 people die from cancer every year”? In statistics where both frequencies and temporal information are used to convey risk, two theories predict opposite answers to this question.
Construal level theory predicts that “100 people die from cancer every day” will be judged as more risky, while the ratio bias predicts that the equivalent “36,500 people die from cancer every year” will result in higher risk judgments. An experiment investigated which format produces higher risk ratings, and whether ratings are influenced by increasing the salience of the numerical or temporal part of the statistic. Forty-eight participants were randomly assigned to a numerical, temporal or control salience condition, and rated risk framed as number of deaths per day or per year. The year format was found to result in higher perceived risk, indicating that the ratio bias effect is dominant, but there was no effect of salience.
Inclusion and exclusion strategies for allocation of scarce goods involve different processes. The conditions under which one strategy is chosen in favor of the other, however, have not been fully explicated. In the present study, decision makers chose a single strategy after reading through descriptions of 16 potential organ recipients; they then narrowed the list of transplant candidates. Most liberals chose to use exclusion under conditions of abundance and inclusion under scarcity. In contrast, conservatives preferred an inclusion strategy under abundance and exclusion (though not significantly) under scarcity. Theoretical implications as well as ongoing work in inclusion-exclusion strategy choice, political ideology, and distributive justice are discussed.
Three experiments investigated individuals’ preferences and affective reactions to negative life experiences. Participants had a more intense negative affective reaction when they were exposed to a highly negative life experience than when they were exposed to two negative events: a highly negative and a mildly negative life event. Participants also chose the situation containing two versus one negative event. Thus, “more negative events were better” when the events had different affective intensities. When participants were exposed to events having similar affective intensities, however, two negative events produced a more intense negative affective reaction. In addition, participants chose the situation having one versus two negative life experiences. Thus, “more negative events were worse” when the events had similar affective intensities. These results are consistent with an averaging/summation (A/S) model and delineate situations when “more” negative life events are “better” and when “more” negative life events are “worse.” Results also ruled out several alternative interpretations including the peak-end rule and mental accounting interpretations.