Association for Behavior Analysis International

The Association for Behavior Analysis International® (ABAI) is a nonprofit membership organization with the mission to contribute to the well-being of society by developing, enhancing, and supporting the growth and vitality of the science of behavior analysis through research, education, and practice.


48th Annual Convention; Boston, MA; 2022

Event Details

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Symposium #146
Social Discounting: A Review of the Research and Current Directions
Saturday, May 28, 2022
5:00 PM–5:50 PM
Meeting Level 1; Room 152
Area: EAB; Domain: Basic Research
Chair: Matt Locey (University of Nevada, Reno)
Abstract: The COVID-19 pandemic has elucidated the everyday tension between acting for oneself (e.g., a young, healthy individual not getting vaccinated out of fear of side effects) versus acting in the interest of others (e.g., receiving the vaccine to prevent the spread of COVID-19 to vulnerable groups). Social dilemmas such as these range in risk level. In the case of COVID-19, there is a high risk whereby many people can be negatively affected by one’s choice. In the case of Influenza, though, the risk is considerably lower if one chooses not to get vaccinated. Social discounting describes the decline in value of an outcome as the recipient increases in social distance. Thus, social discounting measures evaluate the tension between acting for oneself versus acting for others. This symposium has two primary aims: (1) Inform the audience about the field of social discounting and its uses and (2) share ongoing research. Specifically, a review of social discounting will be presented followed by two presentations on ongoing research in the field. Connections will be drawn to the current social environment and directions for future basic research on social choice will be shared.
Instruction Level: Intermediate
Keyword(s): Altruism, Cooperation, Social Choice, Social Discounting
Social and Risky Choice: The Role of Reciprocation
NATALIE BUDDIGA (University of Nevada, Reno), Matt Locey (University of Nevada, Reno)
Abstract: Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, it has become more apparent that social and risky choice are linked. Previous studies have found commonalities and correlations between measures of altruistic and risky choice. Social discounting—a measure of altruistic choice—describes the devaluation of an outcome as the recipient of the outcome increases in social distance. This devaluation has been quantitatively described by the hyperbolic formula that describes probability discounting (risky choice) and both social and probability discounting demonstrate a reverse magnitude effect. Moreover, other research has highlighted a potential link between social choice and reciprocation through a Prisoner’s Dilemma Game and reciprocal discounting questionnaire. The present study sought to explore the role of reciprocation in altruistic and risky choice by comparing the results of a reciprocal discounting questionnaire with social discounting with probability discounting. Like previous research, a moderate correlation between probability and social discounting was found, but there was a weak correlation between probability and reciprocal discounting. A novel probability indication task yielded a hyperbolic decline in the likelihood of giving from other people to the participant. These results reveal that probability and reciprocation play an important role in social decision-making, with reciprocation playing a key role in understanding altruism.
Evaluations of Trust, Likability and Social Distance Based on Fictional Vignettes
VASILIY SAFIN (Reed College)
Abstract: We surveyed ~60 students about their sense of community at Reed College and asked them to respond to vignettes about hypothetical Reed students. There were 4 vignettes and they were accompanied by avatars that appeared white or black. Participants were asked to play hypothetical economic games and rate the vignettes on likability and likelihood of friendship. Some participants rated different vignettes at different social distances, while others put all of them at the exact same social distance. Overall, the medians for three vignettes were identical (15 feet), but the fourth vignette was consistently rated as closer than others. We found no effect in economic games (specifically trust game and dictator game), but there was an overall effect of race on friendship scores. Participants expressed marginally more interest in being friends with characters accompanied by a black avatar than a white avatar. However, there was also a significant interaction such that some vignettes were rated higher with a black avatar and others were rated higher with a white avatar.
A Review of Social Discounting
BRYAN A. JONES (Kent State University, Ashtabula)
Abstract: Social discounting describes how the value of a relationship to another person is reduced as a function of how close one feels toward them. In the Social Discounting Task participants are asked to imagine their friends and family are ordered from most important to least important, and are then given a series of choices between keeping money for themselves or sharing it with a person selected from the list by distance. The choices vary in amount until a point of indifference between the selfish and altruistic option is found for each distance, and those points are used to calculate an overall rate of discounting. Previous work has found that the task is meaningful and that participants have no trouble with the psychophysical measurement of social distance, and that the further the social distance is the less money a person is willing to give away to another. The social discounting task and social distance prompt has been applied to a number of altruistic behaviors ranging from laboratory simulations of social dilemmas to real world kidney donations. Further work has examined the neurocorrelates of the task. This talk will introduce the basics of the SDT and review some of the ongoing areas where social discounting is being applied. Novel data examining the makeup of social networks will be presented.



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