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Emotional experience and personality traits influence individual and joint risk-based decision making.

There is an old saying that two heads are better than one. Based on this traditional saying, some international companies, such as Huawei and Google, adopt a two-decision-maker structure to make them more competitive. Numerous studies have been conducted in which scholars have investigated individual decision making and duo decision making (e.g., Bechara & Damasio, 2002; Herrera, Martinez, & Sanchez, 2005), in which the decision was arrived at by two people, with or without communicating with each other. Joint decision making, is a form of duo decision making in which a decision is made by two people after they have communicated with each other. In previous studies of duo decision making, Palmon and Wald (2002) suggested that small companies would benefit more from having a single executive at the top, whereas large companies, which face more risk conditions, would benefit more from having two executives, while Tauer (2014) found that managers in non-parent-child business partnerships generated more income than those in sole proprietorships did.

In most studies on duo decision making, the researchers have examined a specific set of circumstances, but they have seldom investigated the emotional experience and judgment mechanisms involved in decision making. In this study, we examined the differences between people's risk preference when they were in individual and joint decision-making situations, and differences in their emotional states induced by the decision-making process, with the intention of being able to provide information for organizations to improve their structure, increase their efficiency, and lower their risks.

Literature Review and Hypotheses

Risk means that the results of decisions made by an individual or duo are uncertain (Aven & Renn, 2009). Considerable research has been conducted on risk preference (e.g., Gardner & Steinberg, 2005; Suzuki, Jensen, Bossaerts, & O'Doherty, 2016) and outcomes (e.g., Kocher & Sutter, 2005; Rao et al., 2016) in individual and group decisions. Keller, Sarin, and Sounderpandian (2007) found that dyads were more cautious than individuals were when making decisions. Shupp and Williams (2008) also found that in a high risk situation, dyads were more risk averse than individuals were, while Abdellaoui, L'Haridon, and Paraschiv (2013) had similar findings in relation to couples. In general, researchers have found that group decisions are superior to individual decisions in that they decrease risk and increase earnings (Blinder & Morgan, 2005; Sumpter, Zabzina, & Nicolis, 2012). In the standard economic experiment, the Ultimatum Game, Bornstein and Yaniv (1998) found that groups offered less money than individuals did and were also willing to accept less money. This means that joint decisions made by two-person teams are more rational and strategic than are individual decisions (Cooper & Kagel, 2005).

Experiments based on prospect theory (Kahneman & Tversky, 1979) and regret theory (Bell, 1985) closely resemble the processes of people when making decisions in their day-to-day lives, because their emotions, motivations, and other incentive factors are involved. People construct their preference in making a decision according to their experience rather than precisely computing the possible outcomes (Gottlieb, Weiss, & Chapman, 2007; Kusev & van Schaik, 2010). As such, negative and positive affectivity have an important influence on guiding decisions (Peters & Slovic, 2000). For example, gratitude (Bartlett & DeSteno, 2006) or avoidance of regret and disappointment (Loomes & Sugden, 1987) can influence outcomes. Heilman, Crican, and Houser (2010) showed that the cognitive appraisal of negative events influences risk-taking behavior. Lerner and Keltner (2000) proposed a model of emotion-specific influences on judgment and choice, and proposed that emotion involves multiple responses that are organized according to temporal and spatial parameters (Keltner & Lerner, 2010).

Other researchers have found that the emotional experience associated with making joint decisions differs from that associated with making individual decisions (Fisher, Gregoire, & Murray, 2011). Findings reported by Hoorn, Fuligni, Crone, & Galvan (2016) indicated that peer influence can lead to positive psychosocial outcomes. In this study, to measure emotional experience, we compared three positive emotions (achievement, control, and happiness) and one negative emotion (regret) in regard to their effect on both individual and joint decision making.

In the current study, we used the Balloon Analogue Risk Task (BART) developed by Lejuez et al. (2003) to compare participants' risk preference, earnings gained in the test, and emotional experiences in the situations of making individual and joint decisions. The BART is one of the most widely used tasks for investigating the factors underlying risky decision making and real-world risk-taking behavior (e.g., White, Lejuez, & de Wit, 2008; Xu, Fang, & Rao, 2013). The Iowa Gambling Task (IGT) is another classic task used to test risk-taking behavior, but this task is considered too complex for people completing it to fully understand it (Upton, Bishara, Ahn, & Stout, 2011). Moreover, the risk level in the BART is dynamic, whereas that in the IGT is randomly set. It has been observed in studies using BART that individuals who engage in substance abuse and other risk-taking behaviors are more willing than are their peers to take a risk (Fernie, Cole, Goudie, & Field, 2010; Hopko et al., 2006), indicating that the measure has ecological validity (Buelow & Blaine, 2015). Therefore, we adopted the BART in our study to assess participants' risk preferences in individual and joint decision making.

To measure personality traits, we used the five stable factors in the Big Five theory of personality (Costa & McCrae, 1992), which are highly similar to factors identified during research into Cattell's (1950) personality theory (Tupes & Christal, 1961/1992), providing further evidence of their validity. The core of the Big Five theory of personality is the OCEAN model, which is composed of the five personality traits of openness, conscientiousness, extraversion, agreeableness, and neuroticism (Costa & McCrae, 1992). The Big Five personality traits scale has been widely employed, and researchers have used it to reveal that personality traits are related to risk-based decision making (Dohmen, Falk, Huffman, & Sunde, 2010; Kowert & Hermann, 1997; Soane & Chmiel, 2005). Camgoz, Karan, and Ergeneli (2011) found that fund managers who scored higher on the personality traits of extraversion, openness, and conscientiousness earned more than managers who scored higher on neuroticism and agreeableness.

The influence of team personality composition on joint decisions has been widely studied (e.g., Bradley, Klotz, Postlethwaite, & Brown, 2013; Lim & Beatty, 2011). Team personality composition constitutes the personality characteristics of all members of a team, representing the overall distribution of personality traits (Neuman, Wagner, & Christiansen, 1999). In joint decision making, neuroticism may lead the decision maker to depend more on others, whereas extraversion may lead to the reverse (Gati, Asulin-Peretz, & Fisher, 2012). Therefore, we formed the following hypotheses:

Hypothesis 1: Joint decision making will result in reduced risk taking and increased earnings compared with individual decision making.

Hypothesis 2: Joint decision making will result in a more positive emotional experience than will individual decision making when dealing with risky decisions.

Hypothesis 3: The risk level in individual decision making will be positively related to the personality traits of extraversion and openness, and negatively related to neuroticism, agreeableness, and conscientiousness.

Hypothesis 4: Team personality composition will influence joint risk decisions and mean that decisions reached jointly differ from those arrived at by an individual.

Method

Participants

Because most leaders of Chinese enterprises are men, we recruited 160 men (average age = 22.025 years, ranging from 18 to 27 years, SD = 1.82) to take part in this research. Participants were students we recruited by posted recruitment advertising at Beijing University of Posts and Telecommunications. Participants were required to apply in pairs to make sure they were familiar with, and willing to cooperate with, each other. Participants completed the Big Five personality traits scale using the NEO Five-Factor Inventory (NEO-FFI; McCrae & Costa, 2004) and undertook two BART experiments.

Tasks and Procedure

The experiments were conducted in a silent laboratory. For the BART test, in the individual condition, participants were each seated in front of a computer screen on which there was an image of a balloon that they were asked to inflate by pressing 1 on their keyboard. A green figure on the balloon indicated the cumulative reward associated with pumping up the balloon. If the balloon grew larger when pumped, the reward from that balloon trial was added to the total reward earned for this experiment; if the balloon exploded, the reward from that balloon trial was deducted from the total reward. Participants could press 5 on their keyboard at any time to discontinue balloon inflation and win the total reward for that balloon. Larger balloons are associated with an increased probability of explosion as well as a larger monetary reward. The maximum possible number of inflations was 12 for each balloon, the probability of each balloon's explosion was random, and the maximum balloon reward was US$6. Participants were required to sequentially inflate a series of 30 balloons.

For the joint decision-making experiment, the method and rewards were the same as in the individual condition, except that two participants were asked to make decisions together after communicating with each other, and to take turns pressing the keys. They were to divide the reward equally between them at the end and were asked to maximize their reward. The sequence of the experiments was balanced by 80 of the participants completing the individual decision-making test prior to the joint decision-making test, while the other 80 completed the joint decision-making test prior to the individual one.

After completing the BART experiments, the participants were asked to appraise their emotions according to the scale set out in the Appendix. At the completion of all tasks, we paid participants the dollar amount they had earned in the BART experiments.

Results

We used paired t tests to compare the adjusted average number of pumps (AANP) as well as the participants' emotional experiences under individual and joint decision-making conditions. We used the Pearson correlation coefficient to analyze the relationship between a sense of achievement and the traits of control, happiness, and regret, respectively. We used a 2 x 2 mixed-design analysis of variance (ANOVA) to calculate the interaction between the decision-making condition (joint or individual) and personality in models of emotional experience, AANP, and earnings. We obtained the following results.

The AANP was significantly higher during individual decision making than during joint decision making, t(159) = 3.024, p < .01. Earnings in the individual decision-making condition were significantly lower than those in joint decision making, t(159) = -10.880, p < .01. This result supports Hypothesis 1 that compared with individual decision making, joint decision making reduced risk taking and increased earnings.

The sense of achievement, control, and happiness during joint decision making was significantly higher than during individual decision making, t(159) = 2.257, p < .05; t(159) = 4.387, p < .001; t(159) = 3.766, p < .001, respectively. The sense of regret after joint decision making was significantly lower than after individual decision making, t(159) = -3.753, p < .001. The sense of control and feelings of achievement and happiness were significantly positively correlated: achievement-happiness, p < .01; achievement-control, p < .001; happinesscontrol, p < .01. Sense of achievement was significantly negative correlated with sense of regret (p < .05). Therefore, joint decision making brought about a greater sense of achievement, increased feelings of control and happiness, and resulted in a lower sense of regret, which supports Hypothesis 2.

During individual decision making, the relationship of AANP with neuroticism was nonsignificant, [R.sup.2] = -0.006, p = .940; but was positively related to extraversion and openness, [R.sup.2] = 0.255,p < .01; [R.sup.2] = 0.286,p < .001, respectively; and negatively related to agreeableness and conscientiousness, [R.sup.2] = -0.257, p < .01; [R.sup.2] = -0.254, p < .01, respectively. This result partially supports Hypothesis 3.

To conduct further examination of the relationship between AANP and personality, we classified participants according to their scores for extraversion, openness, agreeableness, and conscientiousness, but as the relationship between AANP and neuroticism was not significant, we did not include that trait in any further analysis. Participants with higher scores than average were classified as the high group (H) for that trait, whereas those with lower scores than average were classified as the low group (L) for that trait. We then compared the AANP for these two groups in the individual decision-making condition. We found that the AANP was not significantly different between the H group and the L group for extraversion and agreeableness, t(76) = -1.314, p = .193; t(79) = 1.156, p = .251, respectively. For openness and conscientiousness, there was a significant difference in AANP between the H group and the L group, t(74) = -3.476, p < .001; t(78) = 2.383, p < .05, respectively (see Figure 1).

We therefore then classified participants into four groups based on their openness and conscientiousness scores: HH (high openness, high conscientiousness), HL (high openness, low conscientiousness), LH (low openness, high conscientiousness), and LL (low openness, low conscientiousness). We found that for the HH and LH groups, there was no significant difference in AANP in the two conditions, t(38) = 1.956, p = .058; t(39) = -1.314, p = .196, respectively. For the HL and LL groups, the AANP was significantly higher under the individual condition than under the joint condition, t(35) = 2.770, p < .01; t(44) = 2.040, p < .05, respectively (see Figure 2). These results show that participants who had lower conscientiousness scores reduced their level of risk taking during joint decision making, and therefore partially support Hypothesis 4.

For AANP, the interaction between decision-making condition (joint or individual) and extraversion was significant, F(1,158) = 5.573, p = .019 < .05. Through simple effect analysis, we found that there was no significant difference in the low-extraversion-score group, average difference (MD) = 0.08, p = .687, but there was a significant difference in the high-extraversion-score group, MD = 0.726, p < .001.

Discussion

We found that, compared with individual decision making, joint decision making reduced risk and increased the earnings of our participants. Our results support those reported in other studies, in which it has been shown that group decisions are more likely to result in cautious behavior (Barnir, 1998; Bornstein & Yaniv, 1998). In terms of emotional experience, we found that joint decision making brought participants a greater sense of control, stronger feelings of achievement and happiness, and a reduced sense of regret. In other words, joint decision making resulted in a more positive emotional experience for them. We also found that individual risk preference was positively related to extraversion and openness, and negatively related to agreeableness and conscientiousness. This is consistent with the results of other studies (Dohmen et al., 2010; Kowert & Hermann, 1997).

These findings shed light on how organizational structures may be altered to increase efficiency and lower risk in business management, in that two decision makers appear to be the better choice in terms of reducing risk and increasing earnings. Furthermore, in the situation of two people making a joint decision, if one individual is less conscientious than the other one is, he or she becomes more conscientious and risk taking is reduced.

More research is needed to examine the link between decision making and personality (e.g., sensation seeking), as well as to determine how intimate the relationship of the participants needs to be for these results to occur. The BART is a commonly used task, but we have no way of knowing whether the results in our study would have been different if we had used the IGT or the Ultimatum Game. Although it may be possible to apply our findings in the Chinese business environment, where most enterprises are headed by men, female only and male-female duo decision making should also be studied. As modern technology develops, advanced techniques in neuroscience such as electroencephalography and functional magnetic resonance imaging may also be useful for identifying the neural basis of the differences we observed in our study.

https://doi.org/ 10.2224/sbp.6541

XIN WANG

Beijing University of Posts and Telecommunications

YU PAN

Shanghai International Studies University

KECHENG ZHANG, YUJIA SUI, AND TINGJIE LV

Beijing University of Posts and Telecommunications

SIHUA XU AND LI GAO

Shanghai International Studies University

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Appendix

Item   Choices

1.     How strong was your    0   1   2   3   4   5   6   7   8   9
       sense of happiness
       during the task? (0
       = least happy, 9 =
       most happy)

2.     How strong was your    0   1   2   3   4   5   6   7   8   9
       sense of regret
       during the task? (0
       = least regret, 9 =
       most regret)

3.     How strong was your    0   1   2   3   4   5   6   7   8   9
       sense of control
       during the task? (0
       = least control, 9 =
       most control)

4.     How strong was your    0   1   2   3   4   5   6   7   8   9
       sense of achievement
       during the task? (0
       = least achievement,
       9 = most
       achievement)


Xin Wang, School of Economics and Management, Beijing University of Posts and Telecommunications; Yu Pan, Laboratory of Applied Brain and Cognitive Sciences, Shanghai International Studies University; Kecheng Zhang, Yujia Sui, and Tingjie Lv, School of Economics and Management, Beijing University of Posts and Telecommunications; Sihua Xu and Li Gao, Laboratory of Applied Brain and Cognitive Sciences, Shanghai International Studies University. This research was supported by NSFC (71671115, 71172135), "NCET" NCET-13-0685, Program for Professor of Special Appointment (Eastern Scholar) at Shanghai Institutions of Higher Learning (TP2015031).

Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Yu Pan, Laboratory of Applied Brain and Cognitive Sciences, Shanghai International Studies University, 550 Dalian Road, Shanghai 200083, People's Republic of China. Email: 13311887777@163.com

Caption: Figure 1. Comparison of adjusted average number of pumps by level of personality traits.

Caption: Figure 2. Comparison of adjusted average number of pumps for individual and joint decision-making conditions by composition according to openness and conscientiousness levels. Note. HH = high openness, high conscientiousness; HL = high openness, low conscientiousness; LH = low openness, high conscientiousness; LL = low openness, low conscientiousness.
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Author:Wang, Xin; Pan, Yu; Zhang, Kecheng; Sui, Yujia; Lv, Tingjie; Xu, Sihua; Gao, Li
Publication:Social Behavior and Personality: An International Journal
Article Type:Report
Date:Jul 1, 2017
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