In this project, the Principal Investigators will examine how introspecting about one's personal normative beliefs about how to make good decisions can improve the quality of decisions. The proposal is grounded in three ideas: (1) that people's decisions are often "mindless" in that people make decisions unaware of their normative beliefs; (2) that becoming mindful of their normative beliefs brings people's decision processes into closer correspondence with those beliefs; and (3) that introspection can increase mindfulness and that introspection therefore increases the correspondence between normative beliefs and decision processes. Four sets of studies will be conducted, using laboratory and field experiments with student and non-student samples. The first set of studies will test whether introspection about the normative influence on decisions of emotional factors and objective scope (such as magnitude and probability) before making decisions causes people to weight emotion and scope in closer correspondence with their normative beliefs, typically decreasing the weight of emotional factors and increasing the weight of scope. The second set of studies will test whether asking people to introspect about the normative influence of personal preferences and social influence (such as political partisanship and peers' preferences) before making decisions causes people to weight personal preferences and social influence in closer correspondence with their normative beliefs, typically decreasing the weight of social influence and increasing the weight of personal preference. The third set of studies will examine moderators of these introspection effects, including differences in need for cognition, differences in normative beliefs, and the relative complexity of a decision. The final set of studies will examine implications of introspection for social decision making, including evaluations of others' personal decisions, evaluation of policy makers' decisions, and behavior in strategic social situations.

In terms of broader impacts, this research will provide scientific evidence for a simple introspection procedure that will advance understanding of whether and when people make decisions according to their personal beliefs. In so doing, the research will demonstrate a simple way to improve the quality of people's decisions in many domains, including charitable donations to alleviate humanitarian suffering, evaluation of environmental policy, perceptions of terrorist risks, personal financial decision making, consumer choices, and cooperative behavior in social contexts. This research will thus provide knowledge about a useful tool both for those interested in improving others' decisions (such as managers, marketers, and policy makers) and for those interested improving their personal decisions (such as employees, consumers, and citizens). This research will also clarify and extend a relatively new construct in Judgment and Decision Making that distinguishes between mindless versus mindful choice, providing an operationalization of those two states, and examining the mechanisms, boundary conditions, and beneficial consequences of moving from mindless to mindful choice. These studies will offer a simple, effective means of improving the quality of decisions without reliance on "heavy handed" external interventions that nudge people in a particular direction, going beyond interventions that rely on other people's ideas about the best and proper way to make decisions. There are also broader impacts inherent in the process of conducting this research, including the training and support of a group of undergraduate and PhD students that is diverse in sex and ethnicity, and the proposed research will foster international collaboration and training among, faculty, graduate, and undergraduate students in the United States and Germany.

National Science Foundation (NSF)
Division of Social and Economic Sciences (SES)
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Donald Hantula
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University of Colorado at Boulder
United States
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