Think for Yourself: When trying to coordinate leads to less efficient coordination strategies than acting individually


If they have to meet a stranger somewhere in Paris tomorrow at noon, most people would go to the Eiffel Tower as the landmark’s saliency creates a natural focal point. However, there are many landmarks in Paris and these can be more or less salient to different individuals. How does a person know that the landmark they find the most salient is the same that the stranger finds most salient? In this study we use an adapted Schelling-point coordination game with three levels of item saliency (high, medium, and low) to see how people coordinate under cases of such ambiguity. We compare the choices of people who were instructed to make individual decisions about saliency (n=188; 199) with people who were instructed to coordinate their decisions with a partner (n=188; 197). Counterintuitively, we find that participants who intentionally coordinate show lower agreement on items than those who make individual decisions. While making decisions based on individual feelings of saliency is the most effective coordination strategy in the current task, intentionally coordinating participants sometimes use alternative strategies that paradoxically compromise coordination success. This raises a compelling avenue for further study to explore how and why coordinated decision making fails.

Liverpool Hope University, Liverpool