[FOUNTAIN]A ‘risky shift’ in nation’s politicsSuppose you have a serious heart disease. With no treatment, there will be limits on what you can do in everyday life. If an operation is successful, you will be completely cured, but if it fails, you will die. How high does the success rate have to be before you will consent to the operation?
American psychologists Michael Wallach and Nathan Kogan once posed the above question to their subjects. As individuals, the average rate was 55 percent.
Then the subjects were divided into groups of six and asked to decide unanimously on a percentage after a discussion. This time the average rate was 47 percent.
Wallach and Kogan changed the question: When you receive a proposal for a new job, how high must the company’s success rate be for you to decide to transfer?
The results were similar: When alone, the subjects tended to make conservative and realistic decisions. However, after group discussions, they would lean toward a risky but attractive alternative. In addition, the longer they discussed, the more the people were willing to take a risk.
In psychology, it is called a “risky shift.” When individuals gather and exchange ideas, they tend to reach a bolder decision. That is because when the decision is made alone, you alone are responsible for the result. However, when a decision is made among a large number of people, individuals feel they shoulder a smaller burden of the responsibility and so are willing to risk more.
Of course, this does not mean that solo decisions are better. Gathering various ideas and trying to reach a wiser decision is the purpose of the decision-making process.
Just be careful that the conclusion is reasonable. Experts advise keeping discussions short and reconfirm the possibility and safety of the decision at the last step. Also keep in mind that group discussions have a possibility of falling into the trap of fallacy.
Recently in the political community, criticism is rising about “committee politics.” It is said that some committees are going beyond their powers. Would this also be a result of a “risky shift,” as posited by Kogan and Wallach? When it involves the nation’s policies, that is indeed troubling.
by Nam Yoon-ho
The writer is the leader of the family news team of the JoongAng Ilbo.