Welcome to the Nexus of Ethics, Psychology, Morality, Philosophy and Health Care

Welcome to the nexus of ethics, psychology, morality, technology, health care, and philosophy

Thursday, March 11, 2021

Decision making can be improved through observational learning

Yoon, H., Scopelliti, I. & Morewedge, C.
Organizational Behavior and 
Human Decision Processes
Volume 162, January 2021, 
Pages 155-188


Observational learning can debias judgment and decision making. One-shot observational learning-based training interventions (akin to “hot seating”) can produce reductions in cognitive biases in the laboratory (i.e., anchoring, representativeness, and social projection), and successfully teach a decision rule that increases advice taking in a weight on advice paradigm (i.e., the averaging principle). These interventions improve judgment, rule learning, and advice taking more than practice. We find observational learning-based interventions can be as effective as information-based interventions. Their effects are additive for advice taking, and for accuracy when advice is algorithmically optimized. As found in the organizational learning literature, explicit knowledge transferred through information appears to reduce the stickiness of tacit knowledge transferred through observational learning. Moreover, observational learning appears to be a unique debiasing training strategy, an addition to the four proposed by Fischhoff (1982). We also report new scales measuring individual differences in anchoring, representativeness heuristics, and social projection.


• Observational learning training interventions improved judgment and decision making.

• OL interventions reduced anchoring bias, representativeness, and social projection.

• Observational learning training interventions increased advice taking.

• Observational learning and information complementarily taught a decision rule.

• We provide new bias scales for anchoring, representativeness, and social projection.