SVO Slider measure
Online SVO Slider Measure

  1. Click here to download our paper that explains the new SVO Slider Measure.

  2. Click here to download different versions of the SVO Slider Measure.

  3. Click here for the norming data used to evaluate the SVO Slider Measure.

  4. Click here for scoring scripts and example analyses.

  5. Click here for the online version of the measure.

Narrow self interest is often used as a simplifying assumption when studying people making decisions in social contexts.  Nonetheless, people exhibit a wide range of different motivations when choosing among interdependent outcomes.  Measuring the magnitude of the concern people have for others, sometimes called Social Value Orientation (SVO), has been an interest of many social scientists for decades and several different measurement methods have been developed thus far. Here we introduce a new measure of SVO that has several advantages over existent methods.

The assumption of narrow self-interest is fundamental to rational choice theory. The assumption postulates that decision makers (DMs) are concerned about maximizing their own material gain, indifferent to the payoffs of other DMs around them. This is a simplifying assumption that yields a powerful apparatus to predict and explain human behavior across a wide variety of domains. However there are reliable counterexamples demonstrating that DMs' elicited preferences and choices are influenced in part by the payoffs of other DMs thus challenging what some have termed the selfishness axiom.

To illustrate the notion of interdependent interests, consider the following choice between two options. In each case the DM is choosing between certain distributions of money, one portion to herself, and some portion to be given to another person, who is unknown to her. The DM and the other person will remain mutually anonymous while and after the decision is made. Hence this is not a strategic decision (i.e., not within the purview of Game Theory as only one DM influences the payoffs of both people, hence there are not strategic concerns) but rather is a one-shot individual decision. Anonymity removes the potential influence of fear of reprisal, reciprocity, reputation, etc.

The “rational” solution to this choice is trivial; a rational DM (Homo Economicus) would select option 2 as it results in a larger individual payoff. That, by choosing option 2 over option 1, an extra $15 is gained at a “cost” of $35 from another person is immaterial from the normative vantage point: the only pertinent consideration is the DM's individual payoff, irrespective of the payoffs to other DMs.

In this instance, the normative account diverges from actual behavior. We find that incentivized DMs, in an anonymous one-shot decision context, choose option 1 about 40% of the time, a finding that is consistent with other research results. Studies on the motivations that underlie interdependent decision behavior have a long history and these motivations have been referred to by a variety of names, including: social preferences, social motives, other regarding preferences, and social value orientation (SVO).

SVO is of utmost importance in understanding how interrelated DMs allocate scarce resources among themselves and others. The postulate of narrow self interest is a point conjecture, namely that DMs have exactly zero interest in the outcomes of other people. Although this is a useful baseline assumption in that it facilitates tractable models with precise predictions, and in many cases works well as an “as if” model, there are numerous examples where it fails to account for DMs' behavior.  Real people's preferences are often much richer, more nuanced, and complex than narrow self interest.  Moreover it is worth recognizing that the point conjecture is inadequate not only to account for different people having different social preferences, but the malleability of these preferences in different situations.

The notion that a DM's utility is not exclusively a function of his own material well being, but is also affected by the well being of others is not a new idea. Edgeworth (1881) explicitly postulated this idea and anticipated a wide range of social orientations. The modern challenge is quantifying Edgeworth's fraction by building reliable and efficient methods to measure this degree of entanglement in DM's utilities and thus expanding theories of social decision making that can accommodate the richness and dynamics of social preferences.

For more details about SVO, see some of our papers:

Murphy, R. O., Ackermann, K. A., & Handgraaf, M. J. J. (2011). Measuring Social Value Orientation.  Judgment and Decision Making, 6(8), 771-781.  Download here.

Murphy, R. O. & Ackermann, K. A. (2014). Social Value Orientation Theoretical and Measurement Issues in the Study of Social Preferences, Personality and Social Psychology Review, Link.

Ackermann, K. A., Fleiß, J., & Murphy, R. O. (2014).  Reciprocity as an individual difference.  Journal of Conflict Resolution, July, 1-28, online at DOI: 10.1177/0022002714541854.  Link.

Murphy, R. O. & Ackermann, K. A. (2015).  Social preferences, positive expectations, and trust based cooperation.  Journal of Mathematical Psychology, 67, 45-50.  Link.

Nax, Heinrich H., Murphy, R. O., & Ackermann, K. A. (2015).  Interactive preferences.  Economics Letters, 135, 133-136, online at DOI:10.1016/j.econlet.2015.08.008.  Link.