The role of sacrifice and argumentation in the arousal of conflict between choice options: development and applications of a double-mediation model - PDCT/PSI/56030/2004 (2005 - 2008)

Reaserch Team:

Marc Scholten (Project Leader)
Inês Rosa


Project's Summary:

Most decisions are not free from conflict: The options of choice often imply tradeoffs between their relative advantages and disadvantages. Most theories of decision making assume that decision conflict is greater when more or larger advantages from one option have to be traded off against more or larger advantages of another option, because greater sacrifices are to be incurred in choosing one option instead of another. However, the reverse may also be true: Decision conflict may increase as the relative advantages and disadvantages become fewer and smaller, because it’s harder to find or develop strong arguments favoring any option.

Scholten and Sherman (2006) developed the Double Mediation Model, a unified model of conflict formation in decision making, which combines the mediating effects of sacrifice and argumentation. The model predicts an inverse U-shaped relation between tradeoff size and conflict, which becomes more positive when situational factors accentuate the mediating effect of sacrifices and more negative when situational factors accentuate the effect of argumentation. Experimental results supported these predictions.

The results were obtained by having participants choose between pairs of consumer products, differentiated along continuous attributes, and presented simultaneously, without giving them the possibility not to choose. For a more exhaustive validation of the model, it is necessary to apply it to other decision domains (risky choice and intertemporal choice) and to other aspects of decision situation (triplets of options, differentiated by discrete features, presented sequentially, with the opportunity no to choose). It is also necessary to develop the double mediation model as a model that can predict not only conflict, but also choices made in light of the conflict experienced.


Project’s aims:

Real choices involve tradeoffs and tradeoffs involve conflict. The double-mediation model suggests that the conflict aroused by tradeoffs is mediated by sacrifices, which become greater with larger tradeoffs, and arguments, which become stronger with larger tradeoffs. Building on preliminary results, which support the model, the objectives of this research project are threefold: (1) Extending the application of the model to other decision domains than choice between consumer products, (2) extending the application of the model to other aspects of the decision situation than forced choice between two options that are presented simultaneously and differentiated along two continuous attributes and (3) developing the model so as to predict not only the conflict experienced in decision making but also the very decisions that people make in light of the conflict experienced. These extensions and developments should establish the double-mediation model as a serious contender among alternative models in the field of behavioral decision making.

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