Findings

Bias in Judgment

Kevin Lewis

November 19, 2009

Voter Bias in the Associated Press College Football Poll

Jay Coleman, Andres Gallo, Paul Mason & Jeffrey Steagall
Journal of Sports Economics, forthcoming

Abstract:
The authors investigate multiple biases in the individual weekly ballots submitted by the 65 voters in the Associated Press college football poll in 2007. Using censored Tobit modeling, they find evidence of bias toward teams (a) from the voter's state, (b) in conferences represented in the voter's state, (c) in selected Bowl Championship Series conferences, and (d) that played in televised games, particularly on relatively prominent networks. They also find evidence of inordinate bias toward simplistic performance measures - number of losses, and losing in the preceding week - even after controlling for performance using mean team strength derived from 16 so-called computer rankings.

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It's funny because we think it's true: Laughter is augmented by implicit preferences

Robert Lynch
Evolution and Human Behavior, forthcoming

Abstract:
This study tests the folk psychological belief that we find things funny because we think they are true. Specifically, it addresses the relationship between implicit preferences and laughter. Fifty-nine undergraduate Rutgers University students (33 females and 26 males) from ethnically diverse backgrounds were videotaped while watching a white stand-up comedian for 30 min. Positive emotional expression associated with laughter was later scored using the facial action coding system (FACS). Computer-timed Implicit Association Tests (IATs) were used to measure a subject's implicit preferences for traditional gender roles and racial preferences (blacks vs. whites). Results show that participants laughed more in response to jokes that matched their implicit preferences (e.g., those with stronger implicit preferences for whites laughed more at racially charged material). Implications for the evolution of humor, and laughter as a hard-to-fake signal of preferences, are discussed.

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Torture and Judgments of Guilt

Kurt Gray & Daniel Wegner
Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, forthcoming

Abstract:
Although torture can establish guilt through confession, how are judgments of guilt made when tortured suspects do not confess? We suggest that perceived guilt is based inappropriately upon how much pain suspects appear to suffer during torture. Two psychological theories provide competing predictions about the link between pain and perceived blame: cognitive dissonance, which links pain to blame, and moral typecasting, which links pain to innocence. We hypothesized that dissonance might characterize the relationship between torture and blame for those close to the torture, while moral typecasting might characterize this relationship for those more distant from it. Accordingly, this experiment placed participants into one of two different roles in which people may be exposed to torture. Participants in the proximal role of prison staffer saw suffering torture victims as relatively more guilty, while participants in the relatively distant role of a radio listener saw suffering victims as more innocent.

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The motivated use of moral principles

Eric Luis Uhlmann, David Pizarro, David Tannenbaum & Peter Ditto
Judgment and Decision Making, October 2009, Pages 476-491

Abstract:
Five studies demonstrated that people selectively use general moral principles to rationalize preferred moral conclusions. In Studies 1a and 1b, college students and community respondents were presented with variations on a traditional moral scenario that asked whether it was permissible to sacrifice one innocent man in order to save a greater number of people. Political liberals, but not relatively more conservative participants, were more likely to endorse consequentialism when the victim had a stereotypically White American name than when the victim had a stereotypically Black American name. Study 2 found evidence suggesting participants believe that the moral principles they are endorsing are general in nature: when presented sequentially with both versions of the scenario, liberals again showed a bias in their judgments to the initial scenario, but demonstrated consistency thereafter. Study 3 found conservatives were more likely to endorse the unintended killing of innocent civilians when Iraqis civilians were killed than when Americans civilians were killed, while liberals showed no significant effect. In Study 4, participants primed with patriotism were more likely to endorse consequentialism when Iraqi civilians were killed by American forces than were participants primed with multiculturalism. However, this was not the case when American civilians were killed by Iraqi forces. Implications for the role of reason in moral judgment are discussed.

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When forewarning backfires: Paradoxical effects of elaborating social feedback on entrapment in a losing course of action

Stefan Schulz-Hardt, Frank Vogelgesang, Felix Pfeiffer, Andreas Mojzisch & Birgit Thurow-Kröning
Journal of Behavioral Decision Making, forthcoming

Abstract:
Entrapment occurs if people persist with losing courses of action. In two experiments, we show how elaborating social feedback (i.e., premature praise or forewarning regarding the chosen course of action) can have paradoxical effects on entrapment. The participants acted as head of a translation department and had to choose one out of four possible translation strategies for their employees. After choosing, they read four arguments (presumably written by former participants) which were either all in favor of the strategy chosen, all against it, or mixed. Half of the participants only read these arguments, whereas the other half elaborated on them by providing written comments (Experiment 1). The results showed that elaborating on other persons' arguments led to stronger entrapment, independently of whether the arguments were positive or negative. This pattern was due to biased argument processing: Whereas confirming thoughts were generated for positive arguments, negative arguments were refuted. Experiment 2 confirmed that this biased argument processing caused subsequent entrapment. These results indicate that elaborating any type of argument can lead to heightened entrapment and, hence, forewarning can backfire.

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The Effects of Rehabilitative Voir Dire on Juror Bias and Decision Making

Caroline Crocker & Margaret Bull Kovera
Law and Human Behavior, forthcoming

Abstract:
During voir dire, judges frequently attempt to "rehabilitate" venirepersons who express an inability to be impartial. Venirepersons who agree to ignore their biases and base their verdict on the evidence and the law are eligible for jury service. In Experiment 1, biased and unbiased mock jurors participated in either a standard or rehabilitative voir dire conducted by a judge and watched a trial video. Rehabilitation influenced insanity defense attitudes and perceptions of the defendant's mental state, and decreased scaled guilt judgments compared to standard questioning. Although rehabilitation is intended to correct for partiality among biased jurors, rehabilitation similarly influenced biased and unbiased jurors. Experiment 2 found that watching rehabilitation did not influence jurors' perceptions of the judge's personal beliefs about the case.

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What US prosecutors and defence attorneys know and believe about eyewitness testimony

Richard Wise, Nell Pawlenko, Martin Safer & David Meyer
Applied Cognitive Psychology, November 2009, Pages 1266-1281

Abstract:
The present study compared what prosecutors and defence attorneys know about eyewitness testimony, what they believe jurors know about eyewitness testimony, and what legal safeguards they think are necessary to educate jurors about eyewitness factors. A total of 73 prosecutors and 1184 defence attorneys completed a survey about eyewitness testimony. Both groups of attorneys had extensive experience practicing law and trying criminal cases. Prosecutors were significantly less knowledgeable than the defence attorneys on almost every issue including the weak relationship between eyewitness confidence and accuracy at trial, jurors' inability to distinguish between accurate and inaccurate eyewitnesses and the benefits of sequential lineups. The prosecutors were less willing than the defence attorneys to permit eyewitness expert testimony and were less sceptical of jurors' knowledge of eyewitness testimony. We highlight issues from the survey that are relevant to the training of prosecutors and defence attorneys about eyewitness testimony.

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Evidence That Self-Relevant Motives and Metaphoric Framing Interact to Influence Political and Social Attitudes

Mark Landau, Daniel Sullivan & Jeff Greenberg
Psychological Science, November 2009, Pages 1421-1427

Abstract:
We propose that metaphor is a mechanism by which motivational states in one conceptual domain can influence attitudes in a superficially unrelated domain. Two studies tested whether activating motives related to the self-concept influences attitudes toward social topics when the topics' metaphoric association to the motives is made salient through linguistic framing. In Study 1, heightened motivation to protect one's own body from contamination led to harsher attitudes toward immigrants entering the United States when the country was framed in body-metaphoric, rather than literal, terms. In Study 2, a self-esteem threat led to more positive attitudes toward binge drinking of alcohol when drinking was metaphorically framed as physical self-destruction, compared with when it was framed literally or metaphorically as competitive other-destruction.

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A tool for thought! When comparative thinking reduces stereotyping effects

Katja Corcoran, Tanja Hundhammer & Thomas Mussweiler
Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, July 2009, Pages 1008-1011

Abstract:
Stereotypes have pervasive, robust, and often unwanted effects on how people see and behave towards others. Undoing these effects has proven to be a daunting task. Two studies demonstrate that procedurally priming participants to engage in comparative thinking with a generalized focus on differences reduces behavioral and judgmental stereotyping effects. In Study 1, participants who were procedurally primed to focus on differences sat closer to a skinhead - a member of a negatively stereotyped group. In Study 2, participants primed on differences ascribed less gender stereotypic characteristics to a male and female target person. This suggests that comparative thinking with a focus on differences may be a simple cognitive tool to reduce the behavioral and judgmental effects of stereotyping.

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Epistemic Landscapes and the Division of Cognitive Labor

Michael Weisberg & Ryan Muldoon
Philosophy of Science, April 2009, Pages 225-252

Abstract:
Because contemporary scientific research is conducted by groups of scientists, understanding scientific progress requires understanding this division of cognitive labor. We present a novel agent‐based model of scientific research in which scientists divide their labor to explore an unknown epistemic landscape. Scientists aim to find the most epistemically significant research approaches. We consider three different search strategies that scientists can adopt for exploring the landscape. In the first, scientists work alone and do not let the discoveries of the community influence their actions. This is compared with two social research strategies: Followers are biased toward what others have already discovered, and we find that pure populations of these scientists do less well than scientists acting independently. However, pure populations of mavericks, who try to avoid research approaches that have already been taken, vastly outperform the other strategies. Finally, we show that, in mixed populations, mavericks stimulate followers to greater levels of epistemic production, making polymorphic populations of mavericks and followers ideal in many research domains.

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Stereotype Activation, Inhibition, and Aging

Gabriel Radvansky, David Copeland & William von Hippel
Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, forthcoming

Abstract:
This research explored age-related changes in drawing stereotypic inferences during the comprehension of narrative texts. Previous research suggests that declines in inhibitory function can lead older adults to rely more on stereotypes and be more prejudiced than younger adults, even in the face of a desire to be non-prejudiced. In two experiments reported here, younger and older adults read stories that allowed for stereotypic inferences. Older adults were less likely to inhibit stereotypic inferences as measured by recognition measures and lexical decision times. A third control experiment verified that the results of the lexical decision task were not due to a priori response biases for the specific target words. Overall, older adults were more likely to make and maintain stereotypic inferences than younger adults, potentially causing them to be more prejudiced than younger adults.

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When Eyewitnesses Talk

Daniel Wright, Amina Memon, Elin Skagerberg & Fiona Gabbert
Current Directions in Psychological Science, June 2009, Pages 174-178

Abstract:
When two people witness an event, they often discuss it. Because memory is not perfect, sometimes this discussion includes errors. One person's errors can become part of another person's account, and this proliferation of error can lead to miscarriages of justice. In this article, we describe the social and cognitive processes involved. Research shows how people combine information about their own memory with other people's memories based on factors such as confidence, perceived expertise, and the social cost of disagreeing with other people. We describe the implications of this research for eyewitness testimony.

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Anticipated Cooperation vs. Competition Moderates Interpersonal Projection

Claudia Toma, Vincent Yzerbyt & Olivier Corneille
Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, forthcoming

Abstract:
Two experiments investigated the impact of anticipated interdependence on people's projection of their characteristics onto an unknown target. After participants had rated themselves on a list of personality traits, they were led to expect a situation of cooperation or competition with another participant and rated this participant on the same list of traits. In both experiments, projection of self-attributed traits was stronger under cooperation than competition. This effect was independent of trait valence, whether defined a priori (Expt 1) or as an idiosyncratic measure (Expt 2). Experiment 2 also revealed that the moderation of interpersonal projection by interdependence was not driven by changes in participants' self-representation. These findings suggest that the anticipated interdependence context influences the way we perceive similarity with unknown others. We discuss possible cognitive and motivational mechanisms underlying this effect.


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