The Technology Effect: How Perceptions of Technology Drive Excessive Optimism
We propose that constant exposure to advances in technology has resulted in an implicit association between technology and success that has conditioned decision makers to be overly optimistic about the potential for technology to drive successful outcomes. Three studies examine this phenomenon and explore the boundaries of this “technology effect.”
In Study 1, participants (N = 147) made simulated investment decisions where the information about technology was systematically varied. In Study 2 (N = 143), participants made decisions in a resource dilemma where technology was implicated in determining the amount of a resource available for harvest. Study 3 (N = 53 and N = 60) used two implicit association tests to examine the assumption that people associate technology with success.
Results supported our assumption about an implicit association between technology and success, as well as a “technology effect” bias in decision making. Signals of high performance trigger the effect, and the effect is more likely when the technology invoked is unfamiliar.
Excessive optimism that technology will result in success can have negative consequences. Individual investment decisions, organizational decisions to invest in R&D, and societal decisions to explore energy and climate change solutions might all be impacted by biased beliefs about the promise of technology.
We are the first to systematically examine the optimistic bias in the technology effect, its scope, and boundaries. This research raises decision makers’ awareness and initiates research examining how the abstract notion of technology can influence perceptions of technological advances.