Risk selections for self and other

Comparisons were made of the risks subjects selected for themselves and for others in a task situation involving motor performance. Male subjects were paired with a male confederate of the experimenter. The subject selected the number of pins for himself or the confederate to attempt to insert during timed trials on the Purdue Pegboard. Successful performances were rewarded by a monetary payoff that varied exponentially with the number of pins selected. Unsuccessful performances resulted in a physical punishment (loud noise presented over headphones). Risk (objective probability of failure) was estimated from the practice performance of the subject or confederate. Between-subjects independent variables were two levels of distance and two levels of financial accountability and within-subjects independent variables were person (self or other) and trial. Subjects made four task selections for themselves and four task selections for the confederate. The outcome of each trial was unobtrusively controlled with successes occurring on Trials 1 and 2, a failure on Trial 3, and a success on Trial 4. A strong effect of trial was found with the risk selected doubling over the first three trials. Subjects appeared to select essentially the same risk for self and other on those trials. Following a loss on Trial 3, subjects selected risks roughly equivalent to their previous selection for themselves and lower risks for the other person. Risk selected for self was found to be a moderate predictor of risk selected for other. A weak interaction of person and distance was also observed. When the other person is near, the trend was for selections for self to be riskier and selections for other to be more conservative. When the other person was distant, the selections tended to be more similar. Financial accountability appeared to have no effect on risk selections.

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