Control level, success probability, and control information in a multi-option scenario

Thumbnail Image
Tan-Harland, Grace
Journal Title
Journal ISSN
Volume Title
Most studies of control have investigated its effects on ratings of control and success on 2-option trials. The present study used 5-option trials in manipulating control level, success probability, and control information through a real-life scenario questionnaire involving the selection of options on scratch-and-win cards. Control level was defined as the percentage of all possible 2-option pairings in which one can make a difference to outcomes using the Nickels and Cramer (1998) comprehensive metric. Success probability was defined as the number of options resulting in a positive outcome, as compared to the total number of options. Control information was defined as providing or withholding information about whether available outcomes are the same (regardless of a participant's choice) or different (depending on a participant's choice). As hypothesized, higher control resulted in higher outcome-control ratings than lower control (except for high versus medium control at low success probability), and higher success probability resulted in higher success ratings than lower success probability. However, higher success probability did not increase outcome-control ratings, and higher control information did not increase outcome-control and success ratings. Lower success probability resulted in higher outcome-control ratings under medium control, explainable in terms of a desire for control operating with an illusion of control. Results suggest that people (a) are sensitive to control in real-life situations as measured by the comprehensive metric and (b) can make finer discriminations in control under high success probability than suggested by previous studies.