Learn what you live? Study finds watching others can reduce decision bias

February 11, 2021

New research from the Indiana University Kelley School of Business shows first evidence that watching and learning from others can help reduce bias and improve decision-making.

The research, published Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, used a computer game designed to decrease bias to see if people who watched others play the game could in turn reduce their own bias. Through three experiments, researchers found that watching others solve bias-related problems helped the observers learn about decision biases and improve on their own. Their study showed this observational learning reduced decision biases such as anchoring - or, relying too much on an original bit of information -- and also improved how the observers take advice.

"Everyone has biases when it comes to making decisions," said study co-author

"From childhood on, we learn by watching others like our parents, siblings, and friends: 'What is safe to eat? How do I do that? How should we behave in social contexts?'" said Carey Morewedge, professor of marketing at Boston University Questrom School of Business and co-author of the study. "This kind of observational learning teaches us important lessons about the world around us. Unfortunately, it also leads us to absorb many of the biases we observe and exhibit those biased behaviors ourselves. This new research shows that we can learn to improve our decision-making and unlearn some of our biases by watching others. We glean unique insights from seeing others solve problems that help us make better and less biased decisions."

The researchers explain there is value in reducing decision bias in both personal and professional domains - Take, for example, buying a house. Research has shown that whatever price the seller puts it up for sale at - No matter how much - buyers tend to adjust based on that price. These researchers argue that if you watch someone else committing or correcting the bias, you could take away insights that help you better make those decisions. For hiring managers, this could be used while onboarding employees - or interviewing employees. Asking others to watch and learn helps reduce bias.

"Social learning interventions like observational learning are not only promising in their effectiveness; they are relatively inexpensive to implement and scalable," said Irene Scopelliti, professor at the Business School (formerly Cass) and co-author of the study. "The findings could benefit all kinds of cases where people have to make decisions under uncertainty (i.e., without all the facts), from which gift to buy a friend to major business, law and policy decisions. We hope this strategy for debiasing decision making is added to the many training interventions used by teachers, government officials and industry leaders to help people make better decisions."

Indiana University

Related Learning Articles from Brightsurf:

Learning the language of sugars
We're told not to eat too much sugar, but in reality, all of our cells are covered in sugar molecules called glycans.

When learning on your own is not enough
We make decisions based on not only our own learning experience, but also learning from others.

Learning more about particle collisions with machine learning
A team of Argonne scientists has devised a machine learning algorithm that calculates, with low computational time, how the ATLAS detector in the Large Hadron Collider would respond to the ten times more data expected with a planned upgrade in 2027.

Getting kids moving, and learning
Children are set to move more, improve their skills, and come up with their own creative tennis games with the launch of HomeCourtTennis, a new initiative to assist teachers and coaches with keeping kids active while at home.

How expectations influence learning
During learning, the brain is a prediction engine that continually makes theories about our environment and accurately registers whether an assumption is true or not.

Technology in higher education: learning with it instead of from it
Technology has shifted the way that professors teach students in higher education.

Learning is optimized when we fail 15% of the time
If you're always scoring 100%, you're probably not learning anything new.

School spending cuts triggered by great recession linked to sizable learning losses for learning losses for students in hardest hit areas
Substantial school spending cuts triggered by the Great Recession were associated with sizable losses in academic achievement for students living in counties most affected by the economic downturn, according to a new study published today in AERA Open, a peer-reviewed journal of the American Educational Research Association.

Lessons in learning
A new Harvard study shows that, though students felt like they learned more from traditional lectures, they actually learned more when taking part in active learning classrooms.

Learning to look
A team led by JGI scientists has overhauled the perception of inovirus diversity.

Read More: Learning News and Learning Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.