Tradeoffs and Theory: The Double-Mediation Model

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Abstract

Most theories of decision making suggest that, when options imply tradeoffs between their attributes, conflict increases as tradeoff size increases, because greater sacrifices are to be incurred in choosing one option instead of another. An alternative view is that conflict decreases as tradeoff size increases, because stronger arguments can be made for any decision. The authors propose a unified model, the double-mediation model, which combines the mediating effects of sacrifice and argumentation. Our model generally predicts an inverse U-shaped relation between tradeoff size and conflict. Results support this prediction. Also, when the decision situation increases the mediating effect of sacrifice relative to that of argumentation, the relation between tradeoff size and conflict changes in an upward direction; conversely, when the decision situation increases the mediating effect of argumentation relative to that of sacrifice, the relation changes in a downward direction. Results support these predictions as well. Commonalities and differences between our model and other formulations are discussed.

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