Who Would You Befriend? - SurveyEngine GmbH

A Teaching License Case Study-

Who Would You Befriend?

Author: Yzabellah Stridsberg & James Bouchat, Students
Supervised by: Dr. Eline van den Broek-Altenburg, Vice-Chair of Population Health Science
Course: Human Decision Making and Choice, Sep-Dec 2023
Number of students: 25
Institution: University of Vermont: Honors College, USA
Technical Course Sponsor: SurveyEngine GmbH

SurveyEngine provided student licenses to a class of students in the Patrick Leahy Honors College at the University of Vermont. The course, “Human Decision Making and Choice”, was developed by Prof. Eline van den Broek-Altenburg and reviews a wide-ranging set of theoretical models for individual choices drawn from social psychology, economics, (moral) philosophy, marketing and other disciplines and then introduces students to a set of standard choice modeling approaches. It begins with theoretical frameworks based on the rational model of judgment and decision making and then progress to applications where individuals face tradeoffs in their choices. The course emphasize choices in health and healthcare, but delves into other related fields as well to see linkages between different academic disciplines.

Research Context
The course culminates in an in-depth introduction on how to develop a choice experiment for either research or marketing in health. Students were able to use Survey Engine to develop their own discrete choice experiments. The most outstanding project was called “Who would you befriend”. When looking at friendships and connections, several factors go into how we choose whom to approach. For example, in social psychology, primacy effects are a reason why first impressions matter; we will be able to recall this information quicker the next time we see that person.

Choice Experiment Editor: SurveyEngine Software

Thus, physical appearance and how approachable someone may look is important. On the other hand, honesty, intelligence, and agreeableness are aspects that can form friendships over time. With the question, “How do you decide who to befriend?” this project seek to answer what attributes carry a larger weight than others when befriending. The students based their project on work of Professor of Philosophy Sara Goering who stated, “A friendship with an obviously similar person may be the most easily attained, but perhaps not the most enriching (Choosing Our Friends: Moral Partiality and the Value of Diversity pg. 405).” The students used pictures of individuals to be able to link the visual to the personal characteristics.

Summary of findings
From the results, the student project found that honesty is the most valued attribute, with agreeableness coming in 2nd, and intelligence being the least important. When it comes to appearance, the lowest utility was assigned to the only elderly people in the pictures, whereas the highest were pictures of working-aged male and a college-aged female. SurveyEngine allowed to link the experimental design with different attributes and levels to different pictures of faces of individuals.

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