By chance or by choice? Biased attribution of others' outcomes when social preferences matter

Erkal, Nisvan, Gangadharan, Lata and Koh, Boon Han ORCID: (2022) By chance or by choice? Biased attribution of others' outcomes when social preferences matter. Experimental Economics, 25 (2). pp. 413-443. ISSN 1386-4157

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Decision makers in positions of power often make unobserved choices under risk and uncertainty. In many cases, they face a trade-off between maximizing their own payoff and those of other individuals. What inferences are made in such instances about their choices when only outcomes are observable? We conduct two experiments that investigate whether outcomes are attributed to luck or choices. Decision makers choose between two investment options, where the more costly option has a higher chance of delivering a good outcome (that is, a higher payoff) for the group. We show that attribution biases exist in the evaluation of good outcomes. On average, good outcomes of decision makers are attributed more to luck as compared to bad outcomes. This asymmetry implies that decision makers get too little credit for their successes. The biases are exhibited by those individuals who make or would make the less prosocial choice for the group as decision makers, suggesting that a consensus effect may be shaping both the belief formation and updating processes.

Item Type: Article
Additional Information: Previous versions of this paper were circulated under the titles “By chance or by choice? Biased attribution of others’ outcomes” and “Attribution biases in leadership: Is it effort or luck?”. We would like to thank the Editor and three anonymous reviewers, Kai Barron, Andy Brownback, Marina Gertsberg, Haley Harwell, Guy Mayraz, Vai-Lam Mui, Daniele Nosenzo, Silvia Sonderegger, Georg Weizsäcker, Tom Wilkening, seminar participants at WZB Berlin, University of Nottingham, University of Arkansas, University of Melbourne, Queensland University of Technology, Monash University, University of East Anglia, and Australian National University, as well as participants at the 11th Annual Australia New Zealand Workshop on Experimental Economics (ANZWEE), 86th Annual Conference of the Southern Economic Association (SEA), 8th Thurgau Experimental Economics Meeting, 2nd BEG Workshop on Behavioural and Experimental Economics (Gothenburg), 30th PhD Conference in Economics and Business, Behavioural Economics: Foundations and Applied Research Workshop (BEFAR), 2018 Asia Pacific Economic Science Association Conference, 2018 Economic Science Association World Meeting, and CPMD Workshop on Behavioural and Experimental Economics for their comments and feedback. We gratefully acknowledge funding from the Australian Research Council (DP1094676). Data and experimental software are available at: .
Uncontrolled Keywords: decision-making under risk,beliefs about others' decisions,attribution biases,social preferences,consensus effect,experiments,beliefs about others’ decisions,economics, econometrics and finance (miscellaneous) ,/dk/atira/pure/subjectarea/asjc/2000/2001
Faculty \ School: Faculty of Social Sciences > School of Economics
UEA Research Groups: Faculty of Social Sciences > Research Centres > Centre for Behavioural and Experimental Social Sciences
Faculty of Social Sciences > Research Groups > Behavioural Economics
Faculty of Social Sciences > Research Groups > Economic Theory
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Depositing User: LivePure Connector
Date Deposited: 19 Aug 2021 00:30
Last Modified: 21 Apr 2023 01:06
DOI: 10.1007/s10683-021-09731-w


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