Frank W. Ciarallo (Advisor), Mary Fendley (Committee Member), Subhashini Ganapathy (Committee Member), Michael E. Miller (Committee Member), Raymond Hill (Committee Member)
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Choosing between alternatives, regardless of the decision context in an organizational group setting is a difficult task. The integrity of the decision is under constant scrutiny and rarely are we ever able to characterize the magnitude of that with which we are consciously or subconsciously concerned: personal bias. This leads to long, drawn out timelines and loosely trusted decisions. This dissertation research focuses on using a traditionally, negatively viewed anchoring bias strategically in a series of experiments with a hypothesis that it can be used to positively reduce personal biases such as preference bias and judgement rooted in ambiguous or asymmetrically available information or replace them with more appropriate biases for the decision context. Anchoring has significant impacts on judgement. A decision maker will make judgements and adjustments favoring a dominant anchor rooted in numerical priming or selective accessibility of information. If information is unbalanced or irrelevant to the decision due to conflicting evaluability of alternatives, selective accessibility can result in preference bias. Part of this dissertation research explores the threshold between the causes of different anchors in a commonly debated topic: Minivan vs SUV. By presenting alternatives with inherently strong user preferences, we are able to make conclusions about the efficacy of specific information presentation modes and procedures and their ability to effectively reduce preference bias between alternatives. We reveal how different decision processes, as described in General Evaluability Theory, promote selective accessibility of irrelevant information; and which ones favor selective accessibility of alternative requirements and numerical anchoring between value judgments. Results show that joint evaluation significantly reduces preference bias and comparisons of alternative values are consistent with numerical anchoring. Additionally, we uncover how anchoring occurs at multiple levels and across multiple dimensions within a multi-criteria decision. These results prompted further experimentation with presentation mode as well as another critical factor in decision making: rating scales. Varying numerical-type rating scales has shown to affect the value of judgement on the full range of a given scale. However, the theory of scale distortion proports that the decision maker defines scale range within scale boundaries using anchoring and adjustment when making consecutive judgements. This dissertation research presents multiple phases of experiment that examines the use of specific mode presentation and varying scale range to determine how value is determined in the pairwise comparisons of alternatives against specific requirements. When considering value ratings of the expected rank order of alternatives subgroups (indicating strong criteria independence), results show that decision makers use consistent comparison ratios regardless of scale range. Furthermore, when comparing the same set of subgroups to the subgroups of biased responses, although ratios are different, the same general trend of comparison exists within subgroup. Providing evidence that mode can facilitate more consistent value comparisons between compatible decision makers allows for the identification of and adjustment of disparities due to bias and potential lack of incremental scaling detail. Every decision maker’s internal scale is different based on a myriad of possible factors unique to that decision maker. Conflicting criteria within and between alternatives in multi-criteria decision making can create negative effects within the weighting schemes and amplify preference biases and scale disparities between decision makers. Additionally, the weighting of group decision making frameworks can intensify the already skewed criteria values. When making judgements against requirements, it may be preferable to reduce scale trend distortions between decision makers as much as possible. Previous research supports that certain information presentation modes can significantly reduce preference bias and strengthen criteria independence against requirements through cross alternative anchoring. The final chapter in this dissertation research proposes a new optimization model for strengthening criteria independence and consensus in group decision making.
Department or Program
Ph.D. in Engineering
Year Degree Awarded
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