Dhruv Jain


All the major economic theories including the game theory inherently assumes that human beings are rationale in their decision-making skills. This project challenges the assumption by asking the following questions: Are human beings really rational in their approach to making decisions? How does social factors like ambitions and moral values influence rationality? Specially, I considered Swartz value scales to determine the personality traits of an individual. Taking up six common cases of social dilemmas in the country, I devised a questionnaire which studied: (1)variation in social decisions with the personality traits of the people and (2)how decision of a people belonging to a particular personality trait gets effected by the particulars of the targeted group. I also recorded how their decisions changed if they were known to propragate for a fixed time. A total of one hundred and fifty individuals from varying age groups and background participated in the study conducted over 3 months in India. Results show a strong correlation between answers to some of the social dilemma questions and only a certain personality traits of the individual. One important result is that contrary to the common hypothesis, the gender differences were not significant.

After my first course in Psychology in Fall 2010, I went to the Professor and expressed my uneasiness about something I was thinking for long. I blurted out to her: "I have a problem. I am intrigued by how people make decisions. How it causes them to choose one over the other. How do they do it.. all the more knowing that this small decision would create a butterfly effect in their lives? I just can't think of how do they come up with one so fast" She gave me a few answers. I was unsatisfied. She gave me more but in vain. She really tried until she came up with a different idea. Clinical psychologist she is. Always know how to 'tame' people. "Why don't you take up a project I was thinking about doing?" she said.

I looked at my upcoming semester schedule. Yes I had some time upfront and I agreed to take up the work which explored how humans make decisions in their daily lives - the social dilemmas, something which could alter their lifetime. I surveyed various possible ways of measuring personality traits and based on my decisions with her, we chose the Schwartz value scale which is widely used by researchers now-a-days. We discussed and iteratively created over 1 month, a questionnaire incorporting 6 common social dilemmas during those times. We uploaded it online and mailed it to a lot of people, shared over our social network and also manually collected feedback in the class of 30s in different colleges. The entire collection and filtering of data took about 3 months irregularly. The intital count was 260 out of which 110 were filtered out for incompleteness, T-tests were done with the remaining and the results recorded. By the time the project proceeded, I got a good idea of how people actually make decisions. Based on their personality traits, they are rational at times but sometime, do mess it up. They also value the gravity of the decisions, the time of influence and are ready to take risk if it is only a trial. Contrary to the commom belief, there was no gender based differences in India. This research has wide scope of application ranging from good managerial decisions in an organization to management of a country where the Government has to take frequent social decisions to satisfy the majority population.

Dhruv Jain, Purnima Singh, "Role of Schwartz value traits in Decision Making in case of Social Dilemmas", Project report in abstract form, 2011. (Download Pdf)