You would probably never sell out your friend for $5. But 500 cents? Now you##re talking! Sure, the value is the same, but researchers have found that people are often lured into making decisions by numbers that seem bigger than they really are.
Writing in the January issue of Psychological Science, Ellen Furlong and John Opfer of
The researchers asked volunteers to take part in a behavioral test known as the prisoner##s dilemma, in which two partners are offered various rewards to either work together or defect. The idea is that in the long term, the participants earn the most money by cooperating. But in any given round of play, they make the most if they decide to turn against their partner while he stays loyal. (The reward is lowest when both partners defect.)
When the reward for cooperation was increased to 300 cents from 3 cents, the researchers found, the level of cooperation went up. But when the reward went from 3 cents to $3, it did not.
While the test measured how bigger numbers increased cooperation, the lesson is also likely to apply to enticements to people to defect, Opfer said. (IHT)