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Groups Make Better Self-Interested Decisions

  • Gary Charness
  • Matthias Sutter

In this paper, we describe what economists have learned about differences between group and individual decision-making. This literature is still young, and in this paper, we will mostly draw on experimental work (mainly in the laboratory) that has compared individual decision-making to group decision-making, and to individual decision-making in situations with salient group membership. The bottom line emerging from economic research on group decision-making is that groups are more likely to make choices that follow standard game-theoretic predictions, while individuals are more likely to be influenced by biases, cognitive limitations, and social considerations. In this sense, groups are generally less "behavioral" than individuals. An immediate implication of this result is that individual decisions in isolation cannot necessarily be assumed to be good predictors of the decisions made by groups. More broadly, the evidence casts doubts on traditional approaches that model economic behavior as if individuals were making decisions in isolation.

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Article provided by American Economic Association in its journal Journal of Economic Perspectives.

Volume (Year): 26 (2012)
Issue (Month): 3 (Summer)
Pages: 157-76

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Handle: RePEc:aea:jecper:v:26:y:2012:i:3:p:157-76
Note: DOI: 10.1257/jep.26.3.157
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  1. Bengt Holmstrom, 1982. "Moral Hazard in Teams," Bell Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 13(2), pages 324-340, Autumn.
  2. Martin G. Kocher & Matthias Sutter, 2005. "The Decision Maker Matters: Individual Versus Group Behaviour in Experimental Beauty-Contest Games," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 115(500), pages 200-223, 01.
  3. Kugler, Tamar & Bornstein, Gary & Kocher, Martin G. & Sutter, Matthias, 2007. "Trust between individuals and groups: Groups are less trusting than individuals but just as trustworthy," Journal of Economic Psychology, Elsevier, vol. 28(6), pages 646-657, December.
  4. Laibson, David, 1997. "Golden Eggs and Hyperbolic Discounting," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 112(2), pages 443-77, May.
  5. Gary Charness & Edi Karni & Dan Levin, 2007. "Individual and group decision making under risk: An experimental study of Bayesian updating and violations of first-order stochastic dominance," Journal of Risk and Uncertainty, Springer, vol. 35(2), pages 129-148, October.
  6. Roman M. Sheremeta & Jingjing Zhang, 2009. "Can Groups Solve the Problem of Overbidding in Contests?," Department of Economics Working Papers 2009-05, McMaster University.
  7. Steven D. Levitt & John A. List, 2007. "What Do Laboratory Experiments Measuring Social Preferences Reveal About the Real World?," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 21(2), pages 153-174, Spring.
  8. David J. Cooper & John H. Kagel, 2005. "Are Two Heads Better Than One? Team versus Individual Play in Signaling Games," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 95(3), pages 477-509, June.
  9. Alevy, Jonathan E. & Haigh, Michael S. & List, John A., 2003. "Information Cascades: Evidence From A Field Experiment With Financial Market Professionals," Working Papers 28608, University of Maryland, Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics.
  10. Babcock, Philip & Bedard, Kelly & Charness, Gary & Hartman, John & Royer, Heather, 2012. "Letting Down the Team? Social Effects of Team Incentives," University of California at Santa Barbara, Economics Working Paper Series qt93n646db, Department of Economics, UC Santa Barbara.
  11. John List, 2011. "Why economists should conduct field experiments and 14 tips for pulling one off," Artefactual Field Experiments 00089, The Field Experiments Website.
  12. Kocher, Martin & Strau[ss], Sabine & Sutter, Matthias, 2006. "Individual or team decision-making--Causes and consequences of self-selection," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 56(2), pages 259-270, August.
  13. Charness, Gary & Karni, Edi & Levin, Dan, 2010. "On the conjunction fallacy in probability judgment: New experimental evidence regarding Linda," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 68(2), pages 551-556, March.
  14. Barton H. Hamilton & Jack A. Nickerson & Hideo Owan, 2003. "Team Incentives and Worker Heterogeneity: An Empirical Analysis of the Impact of Teams on Productivity and Participation," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 111(3), pages 465-497, June.
  15. repec:feb:artefa:0110 is not listed on IDEAS
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