Role thinking: Standing in other people’s shoes to forecast decisions in conflicts
When forecasting decisions in conflict situations, experts are often advised to figuratively stand in the other person’s shoes. We refer to this as “role thinking”, because, in practice, the advice is to think about how other protagonists will view the situation in order to predict their decisions. We tested the effect of role thinking on forecast accuracy. We obtained 101 role-thinking forecasts of the decisions that would be made in nine diverse conflicts from 27 Naval postgraduate students (experts) and 107 role-thinking forecasts from 103 second-year organizational behavior students (novices). The accuracy of the novices’ forecasts was 33% and that of the experts’ was 31%; both were little different from chance (guessing), which was 28%. The small improvement in accuracy from role-thinking strengthens the finding from earlier research that it is not sufficient to think hard about a situation in order to predict the decisions which groups of people will make when they are in conflict. Instead, it is useful to ask groups of role players to simulate the situation. When groups of novice participants adopted the roles of protagonists in the aforementioned nine conflicts and interacted with each other, their group decisions predicted the actual decisions with an accuracy of 60%.
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