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Benefits of the collective: how the group protects individual members in costly decisions

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Research on collective decisions has mainly focused on whether they are better or worse than individual decisions, but rarely on the motives that drive individuals to engage in group decisions. Besides improving accuracy, an important and less explored motive for individuals joining collectives is to share responsibility for decision outcomes. Here I will defend this view by proposing a novel framework on the motives driving individuals to join groups and argue that collective decisions help protect from negative outcomes by reducing stress, regret and punishment. To empirically support this claim, I will present results from studies I have conducted addressing whether: 1) individuals feel less responsible when making decisions in groups 2) individuals join groups to anticipate and experience less regret during risky decision-making 3) norm violations and their punishments differ in individual vs collective decisions. This approach to collective decision-making tackles issues of regret, punishment and responsibility, and therefore has implications across a wide range of societal domains, including political and medical decision-making as well as criminal justice.

Marwa El Zein is a Sir Henry Wellcome Trust research fellow at the Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience, University College London. She is currently investigating the cognitive and neural mechanisms underlying human collective decision-making. After an undergraduate degree in biology and a master degree in cognitive sciences in Paris, she completed her PhD in cognitive neuroscience at Ecole Normale Supérieure (Paris) on the neural mechanisms of contextual influences during perceptual decisions on facial emotions.

This talk is part of the Social Psychology Seminar Series (SPSS) series.

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