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Role thinking: Standing in other people’s shoes to forecast decisions in conflicts

Green, Kesten C. and Armstrong, J. Scott (2009): Role thinking: Standing in other people’s shoes to forecast decisions in conflicts.

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Abstract

Better forecasts of decisions in conflict situations, such as occur in business, politics, and war, can help protagonists achieve better outcomes. It is common advice to “stand in the other person’s shoes” when involved in a conflict, a procedure we refer to as “role thinking.” We tested this advice in order to assess the extent to which it can improve accuracy. Improvement in accuracy is important because prior research found that unaided judgment produced forecasts that were little better than guessing. We obtained 101 role-thinking forecasts from 27 Naval postgraduate students (experts) and 107 role-thinking forecasts from 103 second-year organizational behavior students (novices) of the decisions that would be made in nine diverse conflicts. The accuracy of the forecasts from the novices was 33% and of those from the experts 31%. The accuracy of the role-thinking forecasts was little different from chance, which was 28%. In contrast, when we asked groups of participants to each act as if they were in the shoes one of the protagonists, accuracy was 60%.

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