When thinking about your partner gets in the way: Coordination failures in joint decision-making


Human social life rests on our ability to coordinate decisions. A particular challenge is to converge on decisions without being able to communicate. It has been shown that people achievecoordination by relying on saliency – choosing the option that stands out the most. However, in life there is often more than one salient option. We developed a Schelling-point coordination game with three levels of item saliency to test coordination under cases of ambiguity. We predicted that the coordination strategy people choose in ambiguous situations depends on how similar one’s intuitions are to others’ and one’s willingness to consider a partner’s perspective. These two factors are encapsulated in generalised attitudes of trust. We found that participants were worse at coordinating than would be expected of a saliency strategy, and highly trusting people were worse coordinators than distrusting people. Our findings reveal the unexpected negative consequences of pro-social attitudes on saliency-based coordination. A preregistered fourth experiment is planned to test the hypothesis that these negative consequences are driven by overthinking about the partner during coordination.

Available as preprint from the OSF