This article surveys the latest research on risky-choice framing effects, focusing on the implications for rational decision-making. An influential program of psychological research suggests that people's judgements and decisions depend on the way in which information is presented, or ‘framed’. In a central choice paradigm, decision-makers seem to adopt different preferences, and different attitudes to risk, depending on whether the options specify the number of people who will be saved or the corresponding number who will die. It is standardly assumed (...) that such responses violate a foundational tenet of rational decision-making, known as the principle of description invariance. We discuss recent theoretical and empirical research that challenges the dominant ‘irrationalist’ narrative. These approaches typically pay close attention to how decision-makers represent decision problems (including their interpretation of numerical quantifiers or predicate choice) and they highlight the need for a more robust characterization of the description invariance principle. We conclude by indicating avenues for future research that could bring us closer to a complete—and potentially rationalizing—explanation of framing effects. (shrink)
It is human nature to wonder how things might have turned out differently--either for the better or for the worse. For the past two decades psychologists have been intrigued by this phenomenon, which they call counterfactual thinking. Specifically, researchers have sought to answer the "big" questions: Why do people have such a strong propensity to generate counterfactuals, and what functions does counterfactual thinking serve? What are the determinants of counterfactual thinking, and what are its adaptive and psychological consequences? This important (...) work brings together a collection of thought-provoking papers by social and cognitive psychologists who have made important theoretical and empirical contributions to our understanding of this topic. The essays in this volume contain novel theoretical insights, and, in many cases descriptions of previously unpublished empirical studies. The Psychology of Counterfactual Thinking provides an excellent overview of this fascinating topic for researchers, as well as advanced undergraduates and graduates in psychology--particularly those with an interest in social cognition, social judgment, decision judgment, decision making, thinking and reasoning. (shrink)
An experiment was conducted to test the effectiveness of brief instruction in information structuring (i.e., representing and integrating information) for improving the coherence of probability judgments and binary choices among intelligence analysts. Forty-three analysts were presented with comparable sets of Bayesian judgment problems before and immediately after instruction. After instruction, analysts’ probability judgments were more coherent (i.e., more additive and compliant with Bayes theorem). Instruction also improved the coherence of binary choices regarding category membership: after instruction, subjects were more likely (...) to invariably choose the category to which they assigned the higher probability of a target’s membership. The research provides a rare example of evidence-based validation of effectiveness in instruction to improve the statistical assessment skills of intelligence analysts. Such instruction could also be used to improve the assessment quality of other types of experts who are required to integrate statistical information or make probabilistic assessments. (shrink)
Research suggests political identity has strong influence over individuals’ attitudes and beliefs, which in turn can affect their behavior. Likewise, firsthand experience with an issue can also affect attitudes and beliefs. A large survey of Americans was analyzed to investigate the effects of both political identity and personal impact on individuals’ reactions to the COVID-19 pandemic. Results show that political identity and personal impact influenced the American public’s attitudes about and response to COVID-19. Consistent with prior research, political identity exerted (...) a strong influence on self-reports of emotional distress, threat perception, discomfort with exposure, support for restrictions, and perception of under/overreaction by individuals and institutions. The difference between Democrats and Republican responses were consistent with their normative value differences and with the contemporary partisan messaging. Personal impact exerted a comparatively weaker influence on reported emotional distress and threat perception. Both factors had a weak influence on appraisal of individual and government responses. The dominating influence of political identity carried over into the bivariate relations among these self-reported attitudes and responses. In particular, the appraisal of government response divided along party lines, tied to opposing views of whether there has been over- or under-reaction to the pandemic. The dominance of political identity has important implications for crisis management and reflects the influence of normative value differences between the parties, partisan messaging on the pandemic, and polarization in American politics. (shrink)
Experts often communicate probabilities verbally (e.g., unlikely) rather than numerically (e.g., 25% chance). Although criticism has focused on the vagueness of verbal probabilities, less attention has been given to the potential unintended, biasing effects of verbal probabilities in communicating probabilities to decision-makers. In four experiments (Ns = 201, 439, 435, 696), we showed that probability format (i.e., verbal vs. numeric) influenced participants’ inferences and decisions following a hypothetical financial expert’s forecast. We observed a format effect for low probability forecasts: verbal (...) probabilities were interpreted more pessimistically than numeric equivalents. We attributed the difference to directionality, a linguistic property that biases attention toward an outcome. In the high-probability conditions, the directionality of verbal and numeric probabilities aligned (both were positive), whereas they differed in the low-probability conditions (verbal probabilities were more negative). Participants inferred recommendations congruent with the communicated direction and these inferences mediated the effect of probability format on decisions. (shrink)
Bermúdez's case for rational framing effects, while original, is unconvincing and gives only parenthetical treatment to the problematic assumptions of extensional and semantic equivalence of alternative frames in framing experiments. If the assumptions are false, which they sometimes are, no valid inferences about “framing effects” follow and, then, neither do inferences about human rationality. This commentary recaps the central problem.
The significance of counterfactual thinking in the causal judgement process has been emphasized for nearly two decades, yet no previous research has directly compared the relative effect of thinking counterfactually versus factually on causal judgement. Three experiments examined this comparison by manipulating the task frame used to focus participants' thinking about a target event. Prior to making judgements about causality, preventability, blame, and control, participants were directed to think about a target actor either in counterfactual terms (what the actor could (...) have done to change the outcome) or in factual terms (what the actor had done that led to the outcome). In each experiment, the effect of counterfactual thinking did not differ reliably from the effect of factual thinking on causal judgement. Implications for research on causal judgement and mental representation are discussed. (shrink)
Historically, cognitivists considered moral choices to be determined by analytic processes. Recent theories, however, have emphasized the role of intuitive processes in determining moral choices. We propose that the engagement of analytic and intuitive processes is contingent on the type of tradeoff being considered. Specifically, when a tradeoff necessarily violates a moral principle no matter what choice is made, as in tragic tradeoffs, its resolution should result in greater moral conflict and less confidence in choice than when the tradeoff offers (...) a moral escape route, as in taboo tradeoffs. We manipulated tradeoff type in between subjects design and confirmed the prediction that tragic tradeoffs prompt more conflict and less confidence than taboo tradeoffs. The findings further revealed that moral conflict mediated the effect of tradeoff type on confidence. The study sheds light on the manner in which human minds resolve moral problems involving social agents. (shrink)
Abstractabstract:Expectations about future events underlie practically every decision we make, including those in medical research. This paper reviews five studies undertaken to assess how well medical experts could predict the outcomes of clinical trials. It explains why expert trial forecasting was the focus of study and argues that forecasting skill affords insights into the quality of expert judgment and might be harnessed to improve decision-making in care, policy, and research. The paper also addresses potential criticisms of the research agenda and (...) summarizes key findings from the five studies of trial forecasting. Together, the studies suggest that trials frequently deliver surprising results to expert communities and that individual experts are often uninformative when it comes to forecasting trial outcome and recruitment. However, the findings also suggest that expert forecasts often contain a "signal" about whether a trial will be positive, especially when forecasts are aggregated. The paper concludes with needs for further research and tentative policy recommendations. (shrink)
Stanley Milgram's work on obedience to authority is social psychology's most influential contribution to theorizing about Holocaust perpetration. The gist of Milgram's claims is that Holocaust perpetrators were just following orders out of a sense of obligation to their superiors. Milgram, however, never undertook a scholarly analysis of how his obedience experiments related to the Holocaust. The author first discusses the major theoretical limitations of Milgram's position and then examines the implications of Milgram's experimental manipulations for Holocaust theorizing, contrasting a (...) specific case of Holocaust perpetration by Reserve Police Battalion 101 of the German Order Police. It is concluded that Milgram's empirical findings, in fact, do not support his position - one that essentially constitutes an obedience alibi. The article ends with a discussion of some of the social dangers of the obedience alibi. (shrink)
In The Rational Imagination, Byrne proposes a mental models account of why causal and counterfactual thinking often focus on different antecedents. This review critically examines the two central propositions of her account, finding both only weakly defensible. Byrne's account is contrasted with judgment dissociation theory, which offers a functional explanation for differences in the focus of causal and counterfactual thinking.
This research examined whether youth's forecasted risk taking is best predicted by a compensatory (namely, subjective expected utility) or non-compensatory (e.g., single-factor) model. Ninety youth assessed the importance of perceived benefits, importance of perceived drawbacks, subjective probability of benefits, and subjective probability of drawbacks for 16 risky behaviors clustered evenly into recreational and health/safety domains. In both domains, there was strong support for a noncompensatory model in which only the perceived importance of the benefits of engaging in a risky behavior (...) predicted youths' forecasted engagement in risky behavior. The study overcomes earlier methodological weaknesses by fully decomposing participants' assessments into importance and probability aspects for both benefits and drawbacks. As such, the findings provide clear evidence in support of a boundedrationality perspective on youth decision making regarding risk taking. (shrink)
Intelligence analysts, like other professionals, form norms that define standards of tradecraft excellence. These norms, however, have evolved in an idiosyncratic manner that reflects the influence of prominent insiders who had keen psychological insights but little appreciation for how to translate those insights into testable hypotheses. The net result is that the prevailing tradecraft norms of best practice are only loosely grounded in the science of judgment and decision-making. The “common sense” of prestigious opinion leaders inside the intelligence community has (...) pre-empted systematic validity testing of the training techniques and judgment aids endorsed by those opinion leaders. Drawing on the scientific literature, we advance hypotheses about how current best practices could well be reducing rather than increasing the quality of analytic products. One set of hypotheses pertain to the failure of tradecraft training to recognize the most basic threat to accuracy: measurement error in the interpretation of the same data and in the communication of interpretations. Another set of hypotheses focuses on the insensitivity of tradecraft training to the risk that issuing broad-brush, one-directional warnings against bias (e.g., over-confidence) will be less likely to encourage self-critical, deliberative cognition than simple response-threshold shifting that yields the mirror-image bias (e.g., under-confidence). Given the magnitude of the consequences of better and worse intelligence analysis flowing to policy-makers, we see a compelling case for greater funding of efforts to test what actually works. (shrink)
The susceptibility of decision-makers’ choices to variations in option framing has been attributed to individual differences in cognitive style. According to this view, individuals who are prone to a more deliberate, or less intuitive, thinking style are less susceptible to framing manipulations. Research findings on the topic, however, have tended to yield small effects, with several studies also being limited in inferential value by methodological drawbacks. We report two experiments that examined the value of several cognitive-style variables, including measures of (...) cognitive reflection, subjective numeracy, actively open-minded thinking, need for cognition, and hemispheric dominance, in predicting participants’ frame-consistent choices. Our experiments used an isomorph of the Asian Disease Problem and we manipulated frames between participants. We controlled for participants’ sex and age, and we manipulated the order in which choice options were presented to participants. In Experiment 1 (N = 190) using an undergraduate sample and in Experiment 2 (N = 316) using a sample of Amazon Mechanical Turk workers, we found no significant effect of any of the cognitive style measures taken on predicting frame-consistent choice, regardless of whether we analyzed participants’ binary choices or their choices weighted by the extent to which participants preferred their chosen option over the non-chosen option. The sole factor that significantly predicted frame consistent choice was framing: in both experiments, participants were more likely to make frame consistent choices when the frame was positive than when it was negative, consistent with the tendency towards risk aversion in the task. The present findings do not support the view that individual differences in people’s susceptibility to framing manipulations can be substantially accounted for by individual differences in cognitive style. (shrink)
The rationality debate centers on the meaning of deviations of decision makers' responses from the predictions/prescriptions of normative models. But for the debate to have significance, the meaning and functions of normative analysis must be clear. Presently, they are not, and the debate's persistence owes much to conceptual blur. An attempt is made here to clarify the concept of normative analysis.
Theories of blame posit that observers consider causality, controllability, and foreseeability when assigning blame to actors. The present study examined which of these factors, either on their own or in interaction, predicted blame assigned to actors in a case of harm caused by negligence. The findings revealed that only causal impact ratings predicted blame. The findings also revealed a novel form of asymmetric discounting: the causal impact of a negligent actor was used to discount blame assigned to an innocent actor, (...) but the causal impact of the innocent actor was not used to discount the blame assigned to the negligent actor. (shrink)
Consistent with Barbey & Sloman (B&S), it is proposed that performance on Bayesian inference tasks is well explained by nested sets theory (NST). However, contrary to those authors' view, it is proposed that NST does better by dispelling with dual-systems assumptions. This article examines why, and sketches out a series of NST's core principles, which were not previously defined.