NSF Awards Grant for Group Decision-Making Research

December 16, 2021   Matthew Chervenak

  • Group Decision Making
  • Blog

Washington, D.C. – December 16, 2021 – The National Science Foundation recently awarded a continuing three-year, $476,231 research and development grant to the Santa Fe Institute, the Sunwater Institute, and the Worcester Polytechnic Institute. The study titled Understanding the effect of Individual decision-making strategies on collective decision outcomes will provide important insights into how and why groups make certain decisions.

Scientists have long sought ways to study the phenomenon of group decision making. Researchers in a range of disciplines have tried to tackle the problem, with parallel efforts often leading to conflicting conclusions.

“This grant is all about collective decision-making, from as small as committee meetings to as large as democratic elections and selecting our next president,” says Vicky Chuqiao Yang, a complexity postdoctoral fellow at the Santa Fe Institute and Principal Investigator.  “Individual decision-making heuristics can include cognitive shortcuts. For instance, a person may not research a candidate in detail, but instead depend on what their friends think.”

Ani Harutyunyan, scholar at the Sunwater Institute and Co-Principal Investigator will lead the empirical section of the project. “In the real world, we observe groups facing the same binary choice but choosing different outcomes. Some groups choose the high-merit option; other groups settle on the low-merit option. Can this be explained by the differences in the prevalence of conformity culture in these groups? We will be building a database based on observational and survey data to investigate the question empirically.”

The findings of the study will be presented in academic conferences, meetings and dissemination events to help individuals and groups understand and improve the real-world collective decision-making processes.

Each year, NSF receives more than 40 thousand competitive proposals of which about 25 percent receives awards.

The Sunwater Institute is a nonprofit, nonpartisan interdisciplinary think tank. Sunwater Institute’s mission is to strengthen the foundations of democracy through interdisciplinary science, technology, and open dialogue.