Ming Lee

Mentor: Louisa Egan-Brad

Building on Mary Blumenfeld’s 2012 Bryn Mawr senior thesis, our current experiment will be examining how choice is interpreted across cultures – specifically examining people’s perceptions of how defaults affect them, as well as the effect of default options on memory and social perception in collectivistic versus individualist cultures. Previous literature demonstrates that people from individualistic cultures hold an exaggerated idea of independence, while collectivist cultures encourage conformity. Given the nature of how opt-in versus opt-out defaults affect so many parts of life – from organ donation to health insurance ­– it is important to understand how these might be influenced across cultures. To maximize organ donation, for example, it is crucial to understand how people will react to different kinds of defaults.

The experiment will be a survey conducted online with Indian and American participants recruited through an online platform. Participants will be shown images of people of the gender that they are attracted to. They will be given 5 seconds in which they can either stay with the default or switch to a new person, after which they will be presented with a short description and asked to rate the image’s perceived date-ability. Later they will be asked questions about their memory for the description. The dating style set up is used to ensure that the participants will feel more invested in their choices, and lessen the chance of random choice. After they have rated all images they see a screen explaining what a default is and go through the survey again, this time rating how much the default affected their choices on each question.

We hypothesize that members of individualist cultures will be more likely to choose a non-default option than members of the collectivist cultures, to express their own independence. We also hypothesize that members of individualist cultures will be more likely than those from collectivist cultures to deny that the default affected their decisions. The third hypothesis is that members of collectivist cultures but not individualist cultures will perform better on memory tests if they choose the non-default option. Hypothesis 4 is that members of collectivist cultures but not individualist cultures will rate chosen non-defaults higher on date-ability.