Outcome-desirability bias in resource management problems

Thinking and Reasoning 5 (4):327 – 337 (1999)
Abstract
Sequences of numbers representing prior resource size were presented to participants in a common-pool resource dilemma. The numbers were sampled from uniform probability distributions with either a low variance (low resource uncertainty) or a high variance (high resource uncertainty). Presentations were both sequential and simultaneous. Three groups of 16 undergraduates either estimated the size of the resource when it did not represent value to them; requested an amount from the resource, identified with a sum of money, when the outcome of the requests only depended on resource size; or requested from the resource (sum of money) when the outcome of the requests depended on both resource size and how much others in a group requested. In support of an individual outcome-desirability bias due to selective recall of the number sequences, after sequential presentation larger requests were observed when resource uncertainty was high than when it was low. No effects of resource uncertainty or presentation were found on the estimates of resource size. Whether or not the outcome of the requests depended on others' requests made little difference.
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