A fundamental assumption of theories of decision-making is that we detect mismatches between intention and outcome, adjust our behavior in the face of error, and adapt to changing circumstances. Is this always the case? We investigated the relation between intention, choice, and introspection. Participants made choices between presented face pairs on the basis of attractiveness, while we covertly manipulated the relationship between choice and outcome that they experienced. Participants failed to notice conspicuous mismatches between their intended choice and the outcome (...) they were presented with, while nevertheless offering introspectively derived reasons for why they chose the way they did. We call this effect choice blindness. (shrink)
Every day, thousands of polls, surveys, and rating scales are employed to elicit the attitudes of humankind. Given the ubiquitous use of these instruments, it seems we ought to have firm answers to what is measured by them, but unfortunately we do not. To help remedy this situation, we present a novel approach to investigate the nature of attitudes. We created a self-transforming paper survey of moral opinions, covering both foundational principles, and current dilemmas hotly debated in the media. This (...) survey used a magic trick to expose participants to a reversal of their previously stated attitudes, allowing us to record whether they were prepared to endorse and argue for the opposite view of what they had stated only moments ago. The result showed that the majority of the reversals remained undetected, and a full 69% of the participants failed to detect at least one of two changes. In addition, participants often constructed coherent and unequivocal arguments supporting the opposite of their original position. These results suggest a dramatic potential for flexibility in our moral attitudes, and indicates a clear role for self-attribution and post-hoc rationalization in attitude formation and change. (shrink)
Political candidates often believe they must focus their campaign efforts on a small number of swing voters open for ideological change. Based on the wisdom of opinion polls, this might seem like a good idea. But do most voters really hold their political attitudes so firmly that they are unreceptive to persuasion? We tested this premise during the most recent general election in Sweden, in which a left- and a right-wing coalition were locked in a close race. We asked our (...) participants to state their voter intention, and presented them with a political survey of wedge issues between the two coalitions. Using a sleight-of-hand we then altered their replies to place them in the opposite political camp, and invited them to reason about their attitudes on the manipulated issues. Finally, we summarized their survey score, and asked for their voter intention again. The results showed that no more than 22% of the manipulated replies were detected, and that a full 92% of the participants accepted and endorsed our altered political survey score. Furthermore, the final voter intention question indicated that as many as 48% (69.2%) were willing to consider a left-right coalition shift. This can be contrasted with the established polls tracking the Swedish election, which registered maximally 10% voters open for a swing. Our results indicate that political attitudes and partisan divisions can be far more flexible than what is assumed by the polls, and that people can reason about the factual issues of the campaign with considerable openness to change. (shrink)
The legacy of Nisbett and Wilson’s classic article, Telling More Than We Can Know: Verbal Reports on Mental Processes , is mixed. It is perhaps the most cited article in the recent history of consciousness studies, yet no empirical research program currently exists that continues the work presented in the article. To remedy this, we have introduced an experimental paradigm we call choice blindness [Johansson, P., Hall, L., Sikström, S., & Olsson, A. . Failure to detect mismatches between intention and (...) outcome in a simple decision task. Science, 310, 116–119.]. In the choice blindness paradigm participants fail to notice mismatches between their intended choice and the outcome they are presented with, while nevertheless offering introspectively derived reasons for why they chose the way they did. In this article, we use word-frequency and latent semantic analysis to investigate a corpus of introspective reports collected within the choice blindness paradigm. We contrast the introspective reasons given in non-manipulated vs. manipulated trials, but find very few differences between these two groups of reports. (shrink)
Reasoning research suggests that people use more stringent criteria when they evaluate others' arguments than when they produce arguments themselves. To demonstrate this “selective laziness,” we used a choice blindness manipulation. In two experiments, participants had to produce a series of arguments in response to reasoning problems, and they were then asked to evaluate other people's arguments about the same problems. Unknown to the participants, in one of the trials, they were presented with their own argument as if it was (...) someone else's. Among those participants who accepted the manipulation and thus thought they were evaluating someone else's argument, more than half rejected the arguments that were in fact their own. Moreover, participants were more likely to reject their own arguments for invalid than for valid answers. This demonstrates that people are more critical of other people's arguments than of their own, without being overly critical: They are better able to tell valid from invalid arguments when the arguments are someone else's rather than their own. (shrink)
Experiments on choice blindness support von Hippel & Trivers's (VH&T's) conception of the mind as fundamentally divided, but they also highlight a problem for VH&T's idea of non-conscious self-deception: If I try to trick you into believing that I have a certain preference, and the best way is to also trick myself, I might actually end up having that preference, at all levels of processing.
The role of intentions in motor planning is heavily weighted in classical psychological theories, but their role in generating eye movements, and our awareness of these oculomotor intentions, has not been investigated explicitly. In this study, the extent to which we monitor oculomotor intentions, i.e. the intentions to shift one’s gaze towards a specific location, and whether they can be expressed in conscious experience, is investigated. A forced-choice decision task was developed where a pair of faces moved systematically across a (...) screen. In some trials, the pair of faces moved additionally as soon as the participants attempted to gaze at one of the faces, preventing them from ever viewing it. The results of the experiment suggest that humans in general do not monitor their eye movement intentions in a way that allows for mismatches between planned gaze landing target and resulting gaze landing target to be consciously experienced during decision-making. (shrink)
We are very happy that someone has finally tried to make sense of rationalization. But we are worried about the representational structure assumed by Cushman, particularly the “boxology” belief-desire model depicting the rational planner, and it seems to us he fails to accommodate many of the interpersonal aspects of representational exchange.