Being responsible versus acting responsibly: Effects of agency and risk taking on responsibility judgments

In three experimental studies, with managers and students as participants, we explore in this paper the relation between two kinds of responsibility judgments, called Responsibility 1 (R1) and Responsibility 2 (R2).

Abstract

Decision makers can be viewed as being more or less responsible for their choice and its consequences (R1). Their actions can also be evaluated, from a normative point of view, as instances of more or less responsible behavior (R2). Experiment 1 showed that managers who depart from the default or “normal” course of action, by choosing a new (versus familiar) alternative, changing (versus sticking to) an initial decision, or going against (versus following) the advice of a management team, are rated as more responsible (R1) for the outcomes of their decision. At the same time, they are perceived to act in a less responsible way (R2). Experiment 2 compared decision makers choosing between more or less risky options. High risk takers were held more responsible (R1) for their choice and for its consequences, but were again viewed as behaving in a less responsible way (R2) than low risk takers. In Experiment 3, participants judged decision makers who followed or opposed others' advice by choosing either a high or a low risk option. Opposing others' advice led to higher R1 and lower R2 scores, especially when choosing the high risk option, moderated by outcome (successful decisions appearing more responsible than those that went wrong). Thus R1 and R2 judgments should be distinguished as having different and sometimes even opposite determinants.

Scandinavian Journal of Psychology, 2014, 55 (2), 102–114

Published Apr. 28, 2014 8:00 AM - Last modified May 11, 2016 3:13 PM