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Is there a pro-self component behind the prominence effect? Individual resource allocation decisions with communities as potential beneficiaries

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Selart, Marcus; Eek, Daniel

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Abstract An important problem for decision-makers in society deals with the efficient and equitable allocation of scarce resources to individuals and groups. The significance of this problem is rapidly growing since there is a rising demand for scarce resources all over the world. Such resource dilemmas belong to a conceptually broader class of situations known as social dilemmas. In this type of dilemma, individual choices that appear ''rational'' often result in suboptimal group outcomes. In this article we study how people make monetary allocation decisions between the community where they live and a neighbouring community, with the aim of finding out to what extent these decisions are subject to biased over-weighting. The manuscript reports four experiments that deal with the way individuals make such allocation decisions when the potential beneficiaries are such communities. The specific goal of these experiments is to gauge the amount of bias in the weights that people assign to the various beneficiaries. Taken together, the results from all the four experiments suggest that making the gain of the neighbouring community prominent to a higher extent de-biases the outcomes (the prominence effect) compared to when own community gain is made prominent. Place identity is discussed as a potentially important factor in this connection. Hence, it may be argued that there seems to be some kind of a pro-self component that is able to explain a large part of the variance observed for the prominence effect. Connections between such a factor and in-group favouritism are discussed. A strength of the study was that these major results appeared to be quite robust when considered as task effects, as the salience of the manipulated context factors in the studies (in terms of reliable main or interaction effects) did not distort them.
Keywords decision making; social dilemma; allocation; money; resources; shortage; community; individual; identity; social relations; group; alternative; equality; interaction
Classification Social Psychology
Document language English
Publication Year 2005
Page/Pages p. 429-440
Journal International Journal of Psychology, 40 (2005) 6
ISSN 0020-7594
Status Published Version; peer reviewed
Licence Creative Commons - Attribution-ShareAlike