Discover the most talked about and latest scientific content & concepts.

Journal: Journal of experimental psychology. General


Humans possess a remarkable ability to discriminate structure from randomness in the environment. However, this ability appears to be systematically biased. This is nowhere more evident than in the Gambler’s Fallacy (GF)-the mistaken belief that observing an increasingly long sequence of “heads” from an unbiased coin makes the occurrence of “tails” on the next trial ever more likely. Although the GF appears to provide evidence of “cognitive bias,” a recent theoretical account (Hahn & Warren, 2009) has suggested the GF might be understandable if constraints on actual experience of random sources (such as attention and short term memory) are taken into account. Here we test this experiential account by exposing participants to 200 outcomes from a genuinely random (p = .5) Bernoulli process. All participants saw the same overall sequence; however, we manipulated experience across groups such that the sequence was divided into chunks of length 100, 10, or 5. Both before and after the exposure, participants (a) generated random sequences and (b) judged the randomness of presented sequences. In contrast to other accounts in the literature, the experiential account suggests that this manipulation will lead to systematic differences in postexposure behavior. Our data were strongly in line with this prediction and provide support for a general account of randomness perception in which biases are actually apt reflections of environmental statistics under experiential constraints. This suggests that deeper insight into human cognition may be gained if, instead of dismissing apparent biases as failings, we assume humans are rational under constraints. (PsycINFO Database Record

Concepts: Scientific method, Psychology, Critical thinking, Cognition, Cognitive bias, Bias, Systemic bias


Understanding how individuals revise their political beliefs has important implications for society. In a preregistered study (N = 900), we experimentally separated the predictions of 2 leading theories of human belief revision-desirability bias and confirmation bias-in the context of the 2016 U.S. presidential election. Participants indicated who they desired to win, and who they believed would win, the election. Following confrontation with evidence that was either consistent or inconsistent with their desires or beliefs, they again indicated who they believed would win. We observed a robust desirability bias-individuals updated their beliefs more if the evidence was consistent (vs. inconsistent) with their desired outcome. This bias was independent of whether the evidence was consistent or inconsistent with their prior beliefs. In contrast, we found limited evidence of an independent confirmation bias in belief updating. These results have implications for the relevant psychological theories and for political belief revision in practice. (PsycINFO Database Record

Concepts: Scientific method, Critical thinking, Truth, United States, President of the United States, Hypothesis, Religion, United States presidential election


In daily life, we frequently encounter false claims in the form of consumer advertisements, political propaganda, and rumors. Repetition may be one way that insidious misconceptions, such as the belief that vitamin C prevents the common cold, enter our knowledge base. Research on the illusory truth effect demonstrates that repeated statements are easier to process, and subsequently perceived to be more truthful, than new statements. The prevailing assumption in the literature has been that knowledge constrains this effect (i.e., repeating the statement “The Atlantic Ocean is the largest ocean on Earth” will not make you believe it). We tested this assumption using both normed estimates of knowledge and individuals' demonstrated knowledge on a postexperimental knowledge check (Experiment 1). Contrary to prior suppositions, illusory truth effects occurred even when participants knew better. Multinomial modeling demonstrated that participants sometimes rely on fluency even if knowledge is also available to them (Experiment 2). Thus, participants demonstrated knowledge neglect, or the failure to rely on stored knowledge, in the face of fluent processing experiences. (PsycINFO Database Record

Concepts: Belief, Truth, Epistemology, Mediterranean Sea, Atlantic Ocean, Logic, Common cold, Reason


Research in personality psychology has remained predominantly correlational. For example, 3 decades of research demonstrate a robust cross-sectional relationship between extraversion and positive affect. A handful of studies, however, have examined this link experimentally, showing that extraversion boosts positive affect over short durations. If this is true, behaving in an extraverted manner should be a reliable method for increasing positive affect and, thus, suitable as a well-being-increasing practice. The current study instructed participants to engage in both extraverted and introverted behavior, each for 1 week. Participants increased in well-being when they were assigned to act extraverted and decreased in well-being when they were assigned to act introverted. These findings suggest that changing behavior associated with personality is possible and can impact well-being. More broadly, this study adds to a growing body of research on the potential of experimental methods in personality psychology. (PsycINFO Database Record © 2019 APA, all rights reserved).


People frequently feel anxious. Although prior research has extensively studied how feeling anxious shapes intrapsychic aspects of cognition, much less is known about how anxiety affects interpersonal aspects of cognition. Here, we examine the influence of incidental experiences of anxiety on perceptual and conceptual forms of perspective taking. Compared with participants experiencing other negative, high-arousal emotions (i.e., anger or disgust) or neutral feelings, anxious participants displayed greater egocentrism in their mental-state reasoning: They were more likely to describe an object using their own spatial perspective, had more difficulty resisting egocentric interference when identifying an object from others' spatial perspectives, and relied more heavily on privileged knowledge when inferring others' beliefs. Using both experimental-causal-chain and measurement-of-mediation approaches, we found that these effects were explained, in part, by uncertainty appraisal tendencies. Further supporting the role of uncertainty, a positive emotion associated with uncertainty (i.e., surprise) produced increases in egocentrism that were similar to anxiety. Collectively, the results suggest that incidentally experiencing emotions associated with uncertainty increase reliance on one’s own egocentric perspective when reasoning about the mental states of others. (PsycINFO Database Record © 2015 APA, all rights reserved).

Concepts: Psychology, Cognition, Experience, Knowledge, Emotion, Feeling, Emotions, Egocentrism


Child-rearing experts have long believed that praise is an effective means to help children with low self-esteem feel better about themselves. But should one praise these children for who they are, or for how they behave? Study 1 (N = 357) showed that adults are inclined to give children with low self-esteem more person praise (i.e., praise for personal qualities) but less process praise (i.e., praise for behavior) than they give children with high self-esteem. This inclination may backfire, however. Study 2 (N = 313; Mage = 10.4 years) showed that person praise, but not process praise, predisposes children, especially those with low self-esteem, to feel ashamed following failure. Consistent with attribution theory, person praise seems to make children attribute failure to the self. Together, these findings suggest that adults, by giving person praise, may foster in children with low self-esteem the very emotional vulnerability they are trying to prevent. (PsycINFO Database Record © 2013 APA, all rights reserved).

Concepts: Self-esteem, All rights reserved, Social psychology, American Psychological Association, All rights reversed, Copyright, Vulnerability, Attribution


Most theoretical and empirical research on intertemporal choice assumes a deterministic and static perspective, leading to the widely adopted delay discounting models. As a form of preferential choice, however, intertemporal choice may be generated by a stochastic process that requires some deliberation time to reach a decision. We conducted 3 experiments to investigate how choice and decision time varied as a function of manipulations designed to examine the delay duration effect, the common difference effect, and the magnitude effect in intertemporal choice. The results, especially those associated with the delay duration effect, challenged the traditional deterministic and static view and called for alternative approaches. Consequently, various static or dynamic stochastic choice models were explored and fit to the choice data, including alternative-wise models derived from the traditional exponential or hyperbolic discount function and attribute-wise models built upon comparisons of direct or relative differences in money and delay. Furthermore, for the first time, dynamic diffusion models, such as those based on decision field theory, were also fit to the choice and response time data simultaneously. The results revealed that the attribute-wise diffusion model with direct differences, power transformations of objective value and time, and varied diffusion parameter performed the best and could account for all 3 intertemporal effects. In addition, the empirical relationship between choice proportions and response times was consistent with the prediction of diffusion models and thus favored a stochastic choice process for intertemporal choice that requires some deliberation time to make a decision. (PsycINFO Database Record © 2014 APA, all rights reserved).

Concepts: Decision theory, Decision making software, Empiricism, Probability, All rights reserved, Response time, Hyperbolic discounting, Temporal discounting


Prior research indicates that Facebook usage predicts declines in subjective well-being over time. How does this come about? We examined this issue in 2 studies using experimental and field methods. In Study 1, cueing people in the laboratory to use Facebook passively (rather than actively) led to declines in affective well-being over time. Study 2 replicated these findings in the field using experience-sampling techniques. It also demonstrated how passive Facebook usage leads to declines in affective well-being: by increasing envy. Critically, the relationship between passive Facebook usage and changes in affective well-being remained significant when controlling for active Facebook use, non-Facebook online social network usage, and direct social interactions, highlighting the specificity of this result. These findings demonstrate that passive Facebook usage undermines affective well-being. (PsycINFO Database Record © 2015 APA, all rights reserved).

Concepts: Causality, Sociology, Demonstration, All rights reserved, All rights reversed, Social network service, Active, Facebook


The question of whether tools erase cognitive and physical interindividual differences has been surprisingly overlooked in the literature. Yet if technology is profusely available in a near or far future, will we be equal in our capacity to use it? We sought to address this unexplored, fundamental issue, asking 200 participants to perform 3 physical (e.g., fine manipulation) and 3 cognitive tasks (e.g., calculation) in both non-tool-use and tool-use conditions. Here we show that tools do not erase but rather extend our intrinsic physical and cognitive skills. Moreover, this phenomenon of extension is task specific because we found no evidence for superusers, benefitting from the use of a tool irrespective of the task concerned. These results challenge the possibility that technical solutions could always be found to make people equal. Rather, technical innovation might be systematically limited by the user’s initial degree of knowledge or skills for a given task. (PsycINFO Database Record


Connecting with others increases happiness, but strangers in close proximity routinely ignore each other. Why? Two reasons seem likely: Either solitude is a more positive experience than interacting with strangers, or people misunderstand the consequences of distant social connections. To examine the experience of connecting to strangers, we instructed commuters on trains and buses to connect with a stranger near them, to remain disconnected, or to commute as normal (Experiments 1a and 2a). In both contexts, participants reported a more positive (and no less productive) experience when they connected than when they did not. Separate participants in each context, however, expected precisely the opposite outcome, predicting a more positive experience in solitude (Experiments 1b and 2b). This mistaken preference for solitude stems partly from underestimating others' interest in connecting (Experiments 3a and 3b), which in turn keeps people from learning the actual consequences of social interaction (Experiments 4a and 4b). The pleasure of connection seems contagious: In a laboratory waiting room, participants who were talked to had equally positive experiences as those instructed to talk (Experiment 5). Human beings are social animals. Those who misunderstand the consequences of social interactions may not, in at least some contexts, be social enough for their own well-being. (PsycINFO Database Record © 2014 APA, all rights reserved).

Concepts: Interaction, Sociology, Science, Empiricism, G protein coupled receptors, Behavior, All rights reserved, Adrenergic receptor