Journal of Occupational and Organizational Psychology

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Journal of Occupational and Organizational Psychology - Early View Articles, Pages ${blockparams.parentJournalIssue.pageRange}

Decoy effect, anticipated regret, and preferences for work–family benefits

Attracting talent is one of the key challenges for organizations, and offering attractive work–family benefits plays an increasingly important role in succeeding at this challenge. However, behavioural decision theory suggests that when choosing among job offers with different work–family benefits, individuals may fall prey to a decoy effect and this effect may be mediated through anticipated regret. This effect occurs when preferences are influenced by a normatively irrelevant decoy option that is clearly inferior to one of the other options in the choice set, but not the other (i.e., ‘asymmetrically dominated’). Across two studies, we investigated preferences for two important types of work–family benefits: flexible work arrangements (FWA) and dependent care support (DCS). We predicted and found a decoy effect: Preferences for jobs with these benefits were influenced by the presence of a normatively irrelevant decoy option. That is, preferences shifted towards either the FWA option or the DCS option depending on which option the decoy targeted (i.e., the option that asymmetrically dominated the decoy). The effects held over and above variables related to individuals’ work and family situations and values, including role centrality. Moreover, we found that anticipated regret mediated the effect of the decoy option on benefit preferences.

Practitioner points

  • Organizations can use decoy options with relatively inferior (i.e., dominated) job benefits as an implicit influence tactic to influence applicants' job preferences.
  • Using this approach is only legitimate if it has a factual basis and recruiters need to take ethical aspects of such practices into consideration.
  • Individuals need to be aware that when normatively irrelevant cues such as decoy options affect their decision‐making process, their choices may be biased.
  • By noticing decoy options and influence attempts of recruiters, individuals can ensure that their choices reflect their values, not contextual factors.

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