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Abstract:

Although evidence-based algorithms consistently outperform human forecasters, people often fail to use them after learning that they are imperfect, a phenomenon known as algorithm aversion. In this paper, we present three studies investigating how to reduce algorithm aversion. In incentivized forecasting tasks, participants chose between using their own forecasts or those of an algorithm that was built by experts. Participants were considerably more likely to choose to use an imperfect algorithm when they could modify its forecasts, and they performed better as a result. Notably, the preference for modifiable algorithms held even when participants were severely restricted in the modifications they could make (Studies 1–3). In fact, our results suggest that participants’ preference for modifiable algorithms was indicative of a desire for some control over the forecasting outcome, and not for a desire for greater control over the forecasting outcome, as participants’ preference for modifiable algorithms was relatively insensitive to the magnitude of the modifications they were able to make (Study 2). Additionally, we found that giving participants the freedom to modify an imperfect algorithm made them feel more satisfied with the forecasting process, more likely to believe that the algorithm was superior, and more likely to choose to use an algorithm to make subsequent forecasts (Study 3). This research suggests that one can reduce algorithm aversion by giving people some control—even a slight amount—over an imperfect algorithm’s forecast.

this feels like it matches with what i've seen. i wonder if there are other studies replicating similar effects?

This reminds me of something my father, a retired patent examiner, told me once. For a certain legal procedure the US Patent Office has a form letter a lawyer can use that contains all of the relevant information in a convenient format. My father was amazed by lawyers who refused to use it and instead wrote their own version of it. This seems like a waste of time for both the lawyer and examiner. When my father asked why, at least one lawyer told him that they believed the standard form had legal implications they didn't like, though my father insisted that case law made it clear that was wrong here.

Another (cynical) hypothesis is that these lawyers are paid by the hour and that they actively wanted to waste time.