Ultrasociality: When institutions make a difference

Ultrasociality refers to the social organization of a few species, including humans and some social insects, having a complex division of labor, city-states, and an almost exclusive dependence on agriculture for subsistence. We argue that the driving forces in the evolution of these ultrasocial societies were economic. With the agricultural transition, species could directly produce their own food and this was such a competitive advantage that those species now dominate the planet. Once underway, this transition was propelled by the selection of within-species groups that could best capture the advantages of (1) actively managing the inputs to food production, (2) a more complex division of labor, and (3) increasing returns to larger scale and larger group size. Together these factors reoriented productive life and radically altered the structure of these societies. Once agriculture began, populations expanded as these economic drivers opened up new opportunities for the exploitation of resources and the active management of inputs to food production. With intensified group-level competition, larger populations and intensive resource exploitation became competitive advantages, and the “social conquest of Earth” was underway. Ultrasocial species came to dominate the earth’s ecosystems. Ultrasociality also brought a loss of autonomy for individuals within the group. We argue that exploring the common causes and consequences of ultrasociality in humans and the social insects that adopted agriculture can provide fruitful insights into the evolution of complex human society.

Citation: Houdek, P., Nováková, J., Šťastný, D. (2016). Ultrasociality: When institutions make a difference. Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 39, e102. doi: 10.1017/S0140525X15001089

Optimism bias and overconfidence effects in managerial decision making

This article presents a review on how the optimism bias and overconfidence effects might affect the performance of an individual, and in particular, of a manager or a business owner. The former one appears to be an evolutionary adaptation responsible for a good mental health, and as such is being considered as one of the most consistent, prevalent, and robust biases documented in psychology and behavioral economics. Together with the latter one, these cognitive biases might result in persistent impression that chosen strategy is reasonable, even if a statistical evidence or past experience indicate the contrary. The paper also offers several ideas how to increase performance by reducing effects of an excessive optimism and confidence, even though sometimes just the mere awareness of them can do the trick.

Citation: Zíka, V., & Koblovský, P. Optimism bias and overconfidence effects in managerial decision making. 2016. Conference Paper.

Registered replication report: Study 1 from Finkel, Rusbult, Kumashiro, & Hannon (2002)

Finkel, Rusbult, Kumashiro, and Hannon (2002, Study 1) demonstrated a causal link between subjective commitment to a relationship and how people responded to hypothetical betrayals of that relationship. Participants primed to think about their commitment to their partner (high commitment) reacted to the betrayals with reduced exit and neglect responses relative to those primed to think about their independence from their partner (low commitment). The priming manipulation did not affect constructive voice and loyalty responses. Although other studies have demonstrated a correlation between subjective commitment and responses to betrayal, this study provides the only experimental evidence that inducing changes to subjective commitment can causally affect forgiveness responses. This Registered Replication Report (RRR) meta-analytically combines the results of 16 new direct replications of the original study, all of which followed a standardized, vetted, and preregistered protocol. The results showed little effect of the priming manipulation on the forgiveness outcome measures, but it also did not observe an effect of priming on subjective commitment, so the manipulation did not work as it had in the original study. We discuss possible explanations for the discrepancy between the findings from this RRR and the original study.

Citation: Cheung, I., Campbell, L., LeBel, E.,… Houdek, P.,… Vranka, M.,… Yong, J. C. (2016). Registered replication report: Study 1 from Finkel, Rusbult, Kumashiro, & Hannon (2002). Perspectives on Psychological Science, 11(5), 750-764. doi: 10.1177/1745691616664694

Is the Emotional Dog Blind to Its Choices? An Attempt to Reconcile the Social Intuitionist Model and the Choice Blindness Effect

Previous choice blindness studies showed that people sometimes fail to notice when their choice is changed. Subsequently, they are willing to provide reasons for the manipulated choice which is the opposite of the one they made just seconds ago. In the present study, participants first made binary judgments about the wrongness of described behaviors and then were shown an opposite answer during a second reading of some of the descriptions. Half of the participants saw the answer during the second presentation of the description and the other half saw it only after the presentation. Based on Haidt’s Social intuitionist model, we hypothesized that participants in the latter group would be less likely to reconcile their intuition with the presented answer and thus they would be more likely to reject it. However, we found no difference between the groups.

Citation: Vranka, M., Bahník, Š. (2016). Is the Emotional Dog Blind to Its Choices? An Attempt to Reconcile the Social Intuitionist Model and the Choice Blindness Effect. Experimental Psychology, 63, 180-188. doi: 10.1027/1618-3169/a000325

What Comes to a Manager’s Mind: Theory of Local Thinking

This article develops a model of local thinking in managerial decision making. According to the concept, attention is drawn by selectively salient factors or recalls in specific decision-making contexts. Although decision makers are aware of the changing conditions, they do not make a sufficient mental correction for the fact that the relevance of these factors is not generalized. They overestimate the importance of an option that “easily comes to one’s mind”: They excessively extrapolate from their experiences and extreme news, succumb to reference points and imprinting. The usefulness of the concept of local thinking in explaining decisions taken by managers is demonstrated by a short conceptual review of several empirical studies on local economic and natural shocks, negotiation of bank loans, expert forecasts, workers’ compensations, and gender equality. The conclusion brings speculations about further implications of the theory for organizational research.

Citation: Houdek, P. (2016). What Comes to a Manager’s Mind: Theory of Local Thinking. Journal of Management Inquiry, 25(4), 359-366. ISSN: 1056-4926. doi: 10.1177/1056492616640380

A Perspective on Consumers 3.0: They Are Not Better Decision-Makers Than Previous Generations

This perspective article builds upon the theory of local thinking in interpretation and prediction of consumer behavior in a contemporary world of information overload. It is shown that even informed and socially and environmentally responsible consumers (consumers 3.0) exhibit selective recall, limited attention, and bounded search in the perception and interpretation of price and quality of purchases. Their decisions fall into local cognitive frames, which specifically focus attention only on a narrow structure and content of the choice. The cognitive frames can be established by recent or regular purchases, but also extreme or primary purchase experiences. The article includes a short conceptual review of car, food, clothing, insurance, drugs, paintings, and other product purchases showing that the local cognitive frames often lead to bad bargains across various sectors. The article presents several suggestions for future research.

Citation: Houdek, P. (2016). A Perspective on Consumers 3.0: They Are Not Better Decision-Makers Than Previous Generations. Frontiers in Psychology, 7(848). doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2016.00848

Frozen cultural plasticity

We discuss cultural group selection under the view of the frozen plasticity theory and the different explanatory power and predictions of this framework. We present evidence that cultural adaptations and their influence on the degree of cooperation may be more complex than presented by Richerson et al., and conclude with the gene-environment-culture relationship and its impacts on cultural group selection.

Citation: Houdek, P., Nováková, J. (2016). Frozen cultural plasticity. Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 39.e42+ ISSN: 0140-525X. doi: 10.1017/S0140525X15000151

Differences in autonomy of humans and ultrasocial insects

The target article is built on an analogy between humans and ultrasocial insects. We argue that there are many important limitations to the analogy that make any possible inferences from the analogy questionable. We demonstrate the issue using an example of the difference between a loss of autonomy in humans and in social insects.

Citation: Vranka, M., Bahník, Š. (2016). Differences in autonomy of humans and ultrasocial insects. Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 39, e116. doi: 10.1017/S0140525X1500120X

Behavioral Economics and Customers‘ Decisions at Energy Market

Financial planning is undoubtedly a useful tool to enhance an efficiency of both market sides and thus efficiency of the whole market. However, it is essential to realize that planning can fail in the face of a reliance on a neoclassical cost-benefit analysis while ignoring findings of the behavioral economics. Electricity markets, where despite recent tendencies to make such markets more competitive, consumers seem not to switch their tariffs as much as standard analysis would suggest. It appears that switching decisions are strongly influenced by several psychological factors like status-quo, time inconsistency and mental accounting. This paper presents a review of works on mentioned factors with aim to provide planners on the supply side with a theoretical background how to incorporate such factors into their cost-benefit analysis. By doing so, they can not only make the market more effective but will also improve welfare of their consumers.

Citation: Zíka, V., & Koblovský, P. Behavioral economics and customers‘ decisions at energy market (2016). Conference paper.