Shanon Rule, University of Iowa

Introducing the Car-Race Paradigm: A Dynamic, Engaging, and Adaptable Approach to Studying the Desirability Bias
Friday, April 7, 2017 - 11:30am

ABSTRACT:  In this presentation I will introduce a new paradigm – the Car-Race Paradigm (CRP) – developed to advance our understanding of factors involved in expectation formation. Ultimately, this research is focused on addressing a longstanding question: Do desires concerning a particular outcome impact expectations regarding that outcome? Despite a long history of research into this issue partnered with the obvious implications such an answer has for our understanding of human decision making, the answer remains unclear. While researchers often observe correlations between preferences and predictions, we have yet to establish whether outcome desires directly impact expectations. Evidence is mixed. One paradigm shows a robust desirability bias, while others tend to show null effects. An individual might look at one section of the literature and confidently conclude that desirability impacts expectations, while another simultaneously investigates a different slice of the literature and confidently concludes the opposite. This is problematic for obvious reasons. After examining common features of studies exploring desirability bias, we developed a novel paradigm to address limitations of classic tasks while also incorporating opportunity for customization and adaptation. We did so by providing an engaging, flexible, and adaptable setting designed to allow for inclusion of one’s factors of interest. This feature offers the researcher options limited only by imagination and the laws of physics. In the CRP, participants are assigned to one of two teams of cars (blue/yellow). They encounter twelve car-pairs that will face-off in races down the track, and make predictions about which car will be the winner of each race. Participants earn points each time the car on their team wins. Initial studies confirmed that participants exhibit desirability bias in a pattern that replicates results from classic paradigms. In this talk I will provide a brief overview of the relevant literature, describe the CRP and how it improves upon past paradigms, and discuss an initial line of research exploring the effect of event stochasticity on the desirability bias. I will discuss our findings with regard to stochasticity, and speculate about future directions for the CRP.