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Risky Shift

In a master’s thesis, James Arthur Stoner found that groups tend to make riskier decisions than individuals. Stoner developed a series of fictitious cases in which a person was confronted with the dilemma of having to choose between an attractive but risky alternative and a less attractive but more cautious alternative. He found that the groups tended to select the more risky alternative than did individuals.

This finding of the risky shift was considered surprising given the research in the 1920s and 1930s showing that individuals made more extreme decisions than did groups. Many researchers believed that this led to the expectation that groups would make decisions that would regress to the average risk level of the group’s membership. This was a popular theory at ...

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