Uncertainty increases the reliance on affect in decisions

by on January 31, 2016 at 4:44 pm in Current Affairs, Education, Music, Philosophy, Political Science, Science | Permalink

That is a new paper by Ali Faraji-Rad and Michel Tuan Pham, here is the abstract:

Uncertainty is an unavoidable part of human life. How do states of uncertainty influence the way people make decisions? We advance the proposition that states of uncertainty increase the reliance on affective inputs in judgments and decisions. In accord with this proposition, results from six studies show that the priming of uncertainty (vs. certainty) consistently increases the effects of a variety of affective inputs on consumers’ judgments and decisions. Primed uncertainty is shown to amplify the effects of the pleasantness of a musical soundtrack (study 1), the attractiveness of a picture (study 2), the appeal of affective attributes (studies 3 and 4), incidental mood states (study 6), and even incidental states of disgust (study 5). Moreover, both negative and positive uncertainty increase the influence of affect in decisions (study 4). The results additionally show that the increased reliance on affective inputs under uncertainty does not necessarily come at the expense of a reliance on descriptive attribute information (studies 2 and 5), and that the increased reliance on affect under uncertainty is distinct from a general reliance on heuristic or peripheral cues (study 6).

The pointer is from Cass Sunstein on Twitter.  File under “The culture that is Iowa”?

1 Bill January 31, 2016 at 5:19 pm

This is not surprising.

If you want to read how short cuts in decision making or emotional responses in decision making may have an evolutionary origin, look up an interesting book: Kendrick and Griskevicius, The Rational Animal: How Evolution Made Us Smarter Than We Think”.

Stupid choices may be rational from an evolutionary perspective, which may explain why you, at the evolutionary chain of ancestors, should be grateful that your ancestor over reacted to that object which was either a stick or a snake. Hsss.

2 anon January 31, 2016 at 10:45 pm

The human mind is a wonderful thing, but one of the stock phrases is that it is a survival engine, not a truth engine.

The Oregon thing is affecting me pretty deeply because it might make me reduce my confidence in the species. Here are some fairly typical people who fall into a spiral of fringe beliefs and secret truths .. seems like if it can happen to them it can happen to anybody.

3 Moreno Klaus February 1, 2016 at 5:34 am

“The human mind is a wonderful thing, but one of the stock phrases is that it is a survival engine” ….It is much more than just for “survival”…

4 anon February 1, 2016 at 9:58 am

A brain would say that 😉

5 mulp January 31, 2016 at 6:04 pm

What puzzles me is why uncertainty is such a hot topic these days.

Uncertainty is in my view much lower than it was before the 80s, and it was less in the 90s than in the 80s, and less in the 21st century.

The difference is the uncertainty in, say the 60s, was whether the actions taken in response to bad situations would work or fail. Did spending what would be trillions today building a hundred thousand nuclear bombs make our survival chances better and would the taxes to fund it be worth it? We learned as the public that the risks were increased, but on the other hand, the government spending on bombs that increased the uncertainty also created millions of jobs and new technologies that were listed in trite icons like microwave ovens and satellite TV, a defeat eventually in the computers in your pocket and the Internet. (US rocket scientists were not as good as Russian rocket scientists so the US needed light semiconductor electronic while the Russians could launch tube computers that were ten times the mass. Ironically, US military spy satellite launches today depend on Russian rocket technology from the 60s which are still more powerful than US rockets the US government kept funding. Saturn V was powerful enough, but tax cuts killed it’s funding.)

Today, it’s clear that many things are bad, and it is certain what steps will absolutely make things better, but they are not taken because the certainty is 100% it will cost more in higher prices, higher taxes, lower profits.

It is 100% certain TANSTAAFL.

Yet refusing to be the first to pay to fix things is 100% certain to be a reason for doing nothing. And forcing everyone to pay more to fix things is also 100% certain to be a reason for doing nothing.

It is 100% certain that Trump, Cruz, Sanders, Clinton, Kasich, Rubio, Jeb!, blah blah will fail because no action will fix nothing and any acceptable action will fix nothing.

Eliminating traffic congestion can not be done by cutting taxes or cutting spending.

GDP growth will not increase by cutting Social Security benefits, but will go down.

Privatizing water systems will not lower water rates and improve the water and service.

Repealing Obamacare will not cut health care costs and provide greater benefits with greater choices of doctors and hospitals.

Greater capital investment, building new capital assets, not buying oil assets at higher prices, will drive down profits. Best example is the fossil fuel industry that is suffering from way too much capitalism since Obama took office.

Cheney’s secret meetings with the fossil fuel industry planned for keeping capital investment down to create the certainty of falling US oil production to drive up fossil fuel industry profits because prices would rise.

6 anon January 31, 2016 at 10:38 pm

For the low information voter circa 2009, uncertainty was just code for Obama.

7 David Condon January 31, 2016 at 6:29 pm

What is the definition of affect in this context?

8 seth6 January 31, 2016 at 7:18 pm

it matters not. when you see a phrase like “…consistently increases the effects of a variety of affective inputs..” you quickly know the study is just fluffy academic publication churning.

9 Derek January 31, 2016 at 8:55 pm

Uncertainty in Iowa? How so? It is pretty clear what every candidates governing style will be. Sanders will raise taxes, Clinton will steal and lie, Trump will be a buffoon, Rubio will wander aroud psntless wondering why Schumer is wearing them, Cruz will awaken the independance of the House and Senate, etc. All pretty predictable.

The difficulty comes from the certainty.

10 rayward February 1, 2016 at 6:29 am

Creating uncertainty seems to be a major part of politics (and economics), and the results of this study may confirm the reason. Of course, uncertainty is a major part of life, especially with regard to the future (and, ironically, even the past). Humans obsess about the future, fearing that it will be worse than, or no better than, the past. “These are uncertain times” is an expression that means more than meets the eye.

11 B. Reynolds February 1, 2016 at 10:56 am

After reading that abstract, I’m terribly uncertain what it said.

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