The cost of search and evaluation in online problem-solving social networks with financial and non-financial incentives
Online networks of individuals have been used to solve a number of problems on a scale that would not be possible if not within a connected, virtual and social environment such as the Internet. In this paper, we show that when solving tasks with small duration (under five minutes), also known as microtasks, individuals decision making will be strongly biased by costs of searching (and evaluating) options rather than financial or non-financial incentives. Indeed, we are able to show that we can influence individuals decisions, when solving problems, by rearranging elements visually to modify an individual search sequence, be it by designing the virtual work environment or manipulating which options are first shown in non-controlled environments, such as the Amazon Mechanical Turk labor market. We performed almost 50 experiments in online networks where individuals were invited to work on tasks with varying degrees of difficulty within three settings: mathematical games with objective truth (Sudoku and SAT instances); surveys with subjective evaluation (public policy polling); and labor markets (Amazon Mechanical Turk).