The Influence of Decision Commitment and Decision Guidance on Directing Decision Aid Recommendations

Article excerpt

ABSTRACT

This study considers factors that influence whether decision-aid users direct decision aid recommendations toward their prior beliefs. Desiring to confirm their beliefs, decision aid users may seek to direct decision aid recommendations toward their prior opinions. Cognitive dissonance theory suggests that this is more likely to occur when users are strongly committed to their opinions. However, if decision-makers receive guidance from a decision aid, they may be less likely to direct decision aid recommendations toward their prior belief. In the first of two experiments, professional auditors were more likely to direct decision aid recommendations if they were committed to a decision before using the aid. In the second experiment, graduate business students were more likely to accept a decision aid's initial recommendation when the decision aid provided guidance. However, the decision aid guidance did not stop users from directing the decision aid recommendation toward their prior belief; rather, it appeared to influence users who otherwise would have shifted away from both the decision aid recommendation and their own prior belief. This study contributes to research on decision aid use by finding that both professional and nonprofessional decision aid users direct decision aid recommendations toward their prior belief, and that they are influenced by the degree of their decision commitment and the guidance they receive from the decision aid.

INTRODUCTION

In March 1942, the Japanese naval staff began to plan a campaign designed to draw the United States navy into a decisive battle near the Pacific island of Midway. The campaign had been proposed by Admiral Matome Ugaki in January. As part of the planning, the naval staff conducted a simulation to determine the feasibility of the plan. Admiral Ugaki refereed the simulation. As a strong supporter of the campaign, "... he allowed nothing to happen which would seriously inconvenience the smooth development of the war games to their predestined conclusion. He did not scruple to override unfavorable rulings of other umpires." (Prange, et. al., 1982, p. 31)

The battle simulation used to plan the battle of Midway is an example of using a decision aid, a tool used to assist its user in improving a decision. Decision aids are used in a variety of contexts, including medical diagnosis, bankruptcy prediction, and audit tasks. Research on decision aids has investigated whether they yield superior judgments (Dawes, Faust and Meehl 1989) and, especially in the accounting domain, whether and why decision makers decide whether to rely and decision aid decision recommendations.

As Admiral Ugaki's war game suggests, a user may face more choices than to rely or not on an aids recommendation. A user may control the aid's result so that it is consistent with his or her own opinion. Research in accounting suggests that auditors control a decision aid results to concur with their personal opinion (Kachelmeier and Messier, 1990; Messier, Kachelmeier and Jensen, 2001). Organizations implement decision aids to guide or direct a decision process (Silver, 1990); understanding why people control decision aid recommendations and how this behavior effects decisions will help an organization match its decision support technology to its strategy. For an aid that is designed to guide decisions to add value to an organization, the aid should produce a different decision than an unaided judgment. By controlling a decision aid's recommendation to confirm a prior belief, users obtain the same decision as they would without use of the aid and diminish the aid's value. Decision aids are expensive to develop and often fall into disuse (Gill 1995). Whenever an organization implements a decision aid, it faces the threat that the aid's users will circumvent the aid's recommendation to rely on their own judgment.

This paper builds upon Kachelmeier and Messier (1990) to investigate why people control decision aid results and the effectiveness of strategies to reduce decision aid controlling. …