Exploring the Generalization Process from Past Behavior to Predicting Future Behavior
Substantial evidence in social psychology documents that traits predict behavior. Research in behavioral economics establishes prior behavioral information—the actual behavior of another person in the past—influences future decision making, suggestive of the role of traits in guiding future behavior, but agnostic to the specific psychological mechanism. Yet the entire generalization process from past behavior to predicting future behavior has not been fully explored. Additionally, previous paradigms do not adequately dissociate prediction from explanation, and provide participants with trait information, or rely on participants to generate the appropriate trait. Here, we combine literature and experimental approaches in social psychology and behavioral economics to explore the generalization process from prior behavior that guides future decisions. Across three studies utilizing consequential economic game paradigms and online questionnaires, an initial group of participants (employees) played a time estimation game and a charity donations game before a second group of participants (employers) viewed the behavior of the first group, then decided whether to invest in employees in a trust game and rock guessing game. Although participants infer trait warmth and competence from the behavioral information in the first two games, estimates of normative behavior predicted investment decisions on the warmth-relevant games better than trait inferences. These results dissociate generalizations guided by warmth and competence behavioral information, and question the extent to which traits always serve as heuristics to predict behavior. Copyright © 2015 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.
Harris, L; Lee, VK; Thompson, EH; Kranton, R
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