Better together? Social distance affects joint probability discounting

Diana Schwenke, Ulrike Senftleben*, Stefan Scherbaum

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Deciding together is common in our everyday life. However, the process of this joint decision-making plays out across different levels, for example language, intonation, or non-verbal behaviour. Here we focused on non-verbal interaction dynamics between two participants in probability discounting. We applied a gamified decision-making task in which participants performed a series of choices between a small but safe and a large but risky reward. In two experiments, we found that joint decision-making resulted in lower discounting and higher efficiency. In order to understand the underlying mechanisms in greater detail, we studied through which process this variation occurred and whether this process would be modulated by the social distance between both participants. Our findings suggested that socially close participants managed to reduce their discounting by interactive processes while socially distant participants were influenced by the social context itself. However, a higher level of efficiency was achieved through interactive processes for both groups. In summary, this study served as a fine-grained investigation of collaborative interaction processes and its significant impact on the outcome of choices with probabilistic consequences.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1513-1529
JournalMemory and Cognition
Issue number7
Early online date10 Mar 2022
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2022

Bibliographical note

© 2022, The Author(s). This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, which permits use, sharing, adaptation, distribution and reproduction in any medium or format, as long as you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons licence, and indicate if changes were made. The images or other third party material in this article are included in the article's Creative Commons licence, unless indicated otherwise in a credit line to the material. If material is not included in the article's Creative Commons licence and your intended use is not permitted by statutory regulation or exceeds the permitted use, you will need to obtain permission directly from the copyright holder. To view a copy of this licence, visit

Funding Information:
Open Access funding enabled and organized by Projekt DEAL. This project was funded by a Volkswagen Foundation grant 89426. The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.


  • Social distance
  • Probability discounting
  • Process tracing
  • Joint decision-making


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