Monday, September 8, 2014

Summary of Findings: Role-playing (3.5 out of 5 stars)

Note: This post represents the synthesis of the thoughts, procedures and experiences of others as represented in the 5 articles read in advance (see previous posts) and the discussion among the students and instructor during the Advanced Analytic Techniques class at Mercyhurst University in September 2014  regarding Structured Role-Playing specifically. This technique was evaluated based on its overall validity, simplicity, flexibility and its ability to effectively use unstructured data.

Structured role-playing is a method that forecasts an individual’s or organization’s preferred response to a given problem by simulating both problems and interactions between protagonists using interactive role players in a scenario designed to estimate the intentions of protagonists who may have disparate interests. The interactions between the role players serve as a proxy for the interactions of the decision makers and the decision reached by the role player is taken as a forecast of the decision maker’s preferred response.

1. It may be less expensive than other methods
2. Provides additional outcomes not considered by experts on opposing objectives and strategies
3. Easy exercise to explain
4. Each exercise can be structured to fit any scenario  
5. Can use a large pool of role-playing participants
6. The role-playing participants are less likely to fall into “group think”

1. Lack of preparation for roles negatively impacts quality of the exercise
2. Repeating exact results will likely be difficult
3. Falling victim to stereotypes if roles are not constructed adequately
4. No agreed upon criteria for evaluating role-playing exercises
5. Finding students with similar backgrounds may be difficult to find

Step by Step Action:  
The first step involves participants becoming familiarized with the roles they will be playing.  The participants need time to dive into their characters and start to think about how that person acts and feels.  This goes beyond what is provided within the description.  The participant should think about how that person lives, what do they do during the weekend, who their friends are, etc..  

Now that participants are familiar with their roles, they should be briefed on the situation or the question that needs to be answered.  The participants will apply what their understanding of their role is to the scenario and develop a response to the situation.

Once the simulation has ended, the participants will record how they feel their character would act in the scenario.   The participants should record not only what they believe the outcome will be, but also their thought process.  The thought process will provide valuable evidence into how the participants viewed their characters and potential areas for further research.

Participants were given 1 of 2 roles.  One role was Marcus, a 22-year old African American male from a socially-ill neighborhood in Erie.  Marcus has been in and out of the criminal justice system as a juvenile and continued his misbehavior into his adulthood.  As a result, Marcus is currently on probation.  The other role was Margaret, a middle-aged suburban mother of two college graduates.  She works part-time as a bookkeeper and spends the remainder of her time either gardening or volunteering at the homeless shelter.

After familiarizing themselves with 1 of 2 roles, the administrator gave the exact same scenario to each participant.  In the scenario, a large male approaches the participant (Marcus or Margaret), asks to use a cellphone, then assaults the participant and steals the phone.  After the assault, the participant is taken to a nearby hospital, where a nurse notices injuries of the assault and offers to call the police on their behalf.  Participants are asked whether their character would call the police.  

While the sample size was extremely small, participants playing Marcus opted to not call the call police.  Participants cited Marcus’s probation and past criminal inclinations for reasons to not report the incident.  Conversely, those playing Margaret decided they would call the police.  Participant playing Margaret cited her fairly routine and risk-averse lifestyle as reasons why Margaret would report the incident.

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