Social exploration: When people deviate from options explored by others.

Yuji K. Winet, Yanping Tu, Shoham Choshen-Hillel, Ayelet Fishbach

Research output: Journal article publicationJournal articleAcademic researchpeer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)


People often face choices between known options and unknown ones. Our research documents a social-exploration effect: People are more likely to explore unknown options when they learn about known options from other people’s experiences. Across four studies (N = 2,333), we used an incentive-compatible paradigm where participants chose between known and unknown options (e.g., cash bonuses). We found higher exploration rates (i.e., choosing of unknown options) when information about known options came from other people, compared with an unidentified source (Study 1a) or a computer (Studies 1b–4). We theorize that the social-exploration effect results from people’s tendency to intuitively adopt a group-level perspective with other people: a “we”-perspective. Thus, in social contexts, people explore more to diversify their experience as a group. Supporting this account, we find the effect attenuates in exploration of losses, where people do not wish to adopt a group-level perspective of others’ losses (Study 2). Furthermore, the effect is obtained only if others have experienced the outcome; not when they only revealed its content (Study 3). Finally, the social-exploration effect generalizes to everyday choices, such as choosing a movie to watch (Study 4). Taken together, these findings highlight the social aspect of individual exploration decisions and offer practical implications for how to encourage exploration.

Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Personality and Social Psychology
Publication statusPublished - 2022
Externally publishedYes


  • decision making
  • exploration
  • social influence
  • we-perspective

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Sociology and Political Science


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