The Impact of Causality, Strategies, and Temporal Cues on Games of Decision

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Robinson, A. Emanuel
Hertzog, Christopher
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Decision-making is something we do every day, and is a broad research area that impacts disciplines spanning from economics to philosophy to psychology. The question of rational behavior has been of particular interest (Colman, 2003). A specific area of decision-making where rationality has been investigated is game theory, which deals with the interactions of two or more opponents in a competitive situation (e.g., von Neumann and Morgenstern, 1944). The dominant theoretical perspective in this area claims individuals try to maximize expected utility when making decisions (e.g., Luce and Raiffa, 1957). An alternative theory has been put forth to better explain experimental deviations from utility theory and rationality. Causal decision theory is based on the assumption that individuals incorporate causal knowledge in decisions, while trying to maximize causal utility (e.g., Sloman, 2005). The present study delineated these theoretical approaches as strategies that can be utilized in game theoretic situations (based on a strategy choice perspective in deductive reasoning developed by Robinson and Hertzog, 2005). The role of causal models, strategy choice, and temporal assumptions were investigated. In both experiments, there was support for causal decision theory and the primary prediction that a direct causal model leads to more cooperation in competitive situations. Conversely, those individuals that were given (or assumed) a common cause model chose to cooperate less. Qualitative coding and strategy self-reports aligned with these findings and according to predictions. These differences in cooperation based on causal models also held across items for the same participant. Finally, causal information superseded temporal cues in affecting behavior.
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