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Sunday, April 23, 2023

Produced and counterfactual effort contribute to responsibility attributions in collaborative tasks

Xiang, Y., Landy, J., et al. (2023, March 8). 


How do people judge responsibility in collaborative tasks? Past work has proposed a number of metrics that people may use to attribute blame and credit to others, such as effort, competence, and force. Some theories consider only the produced effort or force (individuals are more responsible if they produce more effort or force), whereas others consider counterfactuals (individuals are more responsible if some alternative behavior on their or their collaborator's part could have altered the outcome). Across four experiments (N = 717), we found that participants’ judgments are best described by a model that considers both produced and counterfactual effort. This finding generalized to an independent validation data set (N = 99). Our results thus support a dual-factor theory of responsibility attribution in collaborative tasks.

General discussion

Responsibility for the outcomes of collaborations is often distributed unevenly. For example, the lead author on a project may get the bulk of the credit for a scientific discovery, the head of a company may  shoulder the blame for a failed product, and the lazier of two friends may get the greater share of blame  for failing to lift a couch.  However, past work has provided conflicting accounts of the computations that drive responsibility attributions in collaborative tasks.  Here, we compared each of these accounts against human responsibility attributions in a simple collaborative task where two agents attempted to lift a box together.  We contrasted seven models that predict responsibility judgments based on metrics proposed in past work, comprising three production-style models (Force, Strength, Effort), three counterfactual-style models (Focal-agent-only, Non-focal-agent-only, Both-agent), and one Ensemble model that combines the best-fitting production- and counterfactual-style models.  Experiment 1a and Experiment 1b showed that theEffort model and the Both-agent counterfactual model capture the data best among the production-style models and the counterfactual-style models, respectively.  However, neither provided a fully adequate fit on their own.  We then showed that predictions derived from the average of these two models (i.e., the Ensemble model) outperform all other models, suggesting that responsibility judgments are likely a combination of production-style reasoning and counterfactual reasoning.  Further evidence came from analyses performed on individual participants, which revealed that he Ensemble model explained more participants’ data than any other model.  These findings were subsequently supported by Experiment 2a and Experiment 2b, which replicated the results when additional force information was shown to the participants, and by Experiment 3, which validated the model predictions with a broader range of stimuli.

Summary: Effort exerted by each member & counterfactual thinking play a crucial role in attributing responsibility for success or failure in collaborative tasks. This study suggests that higher effort leads to more responsibility for success, while lower effort leads to more responsibility for failure.