Findings

Simpletons

Kevin Lewis

December 28, 2017

Overconfidence Among Beginners: Is a Little Learning a Dangerous Thing?
Carmen Sanchez & David Dunning
Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, forthcoming

Abstract:

Across 6 studies we investigated the development of overconfidence among beginners. In 4 of the studies, participants completed multicue probabilistic learning tasks (e.g., learning to diagnose "zombie diseases" from physical symptoms). Although beginners did not start out overconfident in their judgments, they rapidly surged to a "beginner's bubble" of overconfidence. This bubble was traced to exuberant and error-filled theorizing about how to approach the task formed after just a few learning experiences. Later trials challenged and refined those theories, leading to a temporary leveling off of confidence while performance incrementally improved, although confidence began to rise again after this pause. In 2 additional studies we found a real-world echo of this pattern of overconfidence across the life course. Self-ratings of financial literacy surged among young adults, then leveled off among older respondents until late adulthood, where it begins to rise again, with actual financial knowledge all the while rising more slowly, consistently, and incrementally throughout adulthood. Hence, when it comes to overconfident judgment, a little learning does appear to be a dangerous thing. Although beginners start with humble self-perceptions, with just a little experience their confidence races ahead of their actual performance.


'Fake news': Incorrect, but hard to correct. The role of cognitive ability on the impact of false information on social impressions
Jonas De keersmaecker & Arne Roets
Intelligence, November 2017, Pages 107-110

Abstract:

The present experiment (N = 390) examined how people adjust their judgment after they learn that crucial information on which their initial evaluation was based is incorrect. In line with our expectations, the results showed that people generally do adjust their attitudes, but the degree to which they correct their assessment depends on their cognitive ability. In particular, individuals with lower levels of cognitive ability adjusted their attitudes to a lesser extent than individuals with higher levels of cognitive ability. Moreover, for those with lower levels of cognitive ability, even after the explicit disconfirmation of the false information, adjusted attitudes remained biased and significantly different from the attitudes of the control group who was never exposed to the incorrect information. In contrast, the adjusted attitudes of those with higher levels of cognitive ability were similar to those of the control group. Controlling for need for closure and right-wing authoritarianism did not influence the relationship between cognitive ability and attitude adjustment. The present results indicate that, even in optimal circumstances, the initial influence of incorrect information cannot simply be undone by pointing out that this information was incorrect, especially in people with relatively lower cognitive ability.


"And the Oscar Goes to . . .": Integrative Complexity's Predictive Power in the Film Industry
Hayley McCullough & Lucian Gideon Conway
Psychology of Aesthetics, Creativity, and the Arts, forthcoming

Abstract:

The predictive power of integrative complexity and its subtypes is both well-documented and thoroughly researched, but the bulk of the research on the variable occurs within political psychology. Below, we present 2 studies that show integrative complexity's validity in understanding the psychology of entertainment and pop culture. In both studies, we utilized integrative complexity as a means of comparison between the winning films and losing films during the film award season. Study 1 compared the winners and losers in the Academy Awards' Best Picture and Best Original Screenplay categories for 5 randomly chosen years between 1990 and 2015. Study 2 expanded this scope and compared winners and losers from different categories for the Academy Awards, Golden Globes and People's Choice Awards. Across both studies, we found that winning films consistently scored lower for all 3 types of integrative complexity than the losing films. We believe our findings support the notion that integrative complexity is a viable variable outside of political psychology contexts, and also provides insight into how people psychologically perceive the quality of a film.


IQ decline and Piaget: Does the rot start at the top?
James Flynn & Michael Shayer
Intelligence, January-February 2018, Pages 112-121

Abstract:

The IQ gains of the 20th century have faltered. Losses in Nordic nations after 1995 average at 6.85 IQ points when projected over thirty years. On Piagetian tests, Britain shows decimation among high scorers on three tests and overall losses on one. The US sustained its historic gain (0.3 points per year) through 2014. The Netherlands shows no change in preschoolers, mild losses at high school, and possible gains by adults. Australia and France offer weak evidence of losses at school and by adults respectively. German speakers show verbal gains and spatial losses among adults. South Korea, a latecomer to industrialization, is gaining at twice the historic US rate. When a later cohort is compared to an earlier cohort, IQ trends vary dramatically by age. Piagetian trends indicate that a decimation of top scores may be accompanied by gains in cognitive ability below the median. They also reveal the existence of factors that have an atypical impact at high levels of cognitive competence. Scandinavian data from conventional tests confirm the decimation of top scorers but not factors of atypical impact. Piagetian tests may be more sensitive to detecting this phenomenon.


Public Response to a Near-Miss Nuclear Accident Scenario Varying in Causal Attributions and Outcome Uncertainty
Jinshu Cui, Heather Rosoff & Richard John
Risk Analysis, forthcoming

Abstract:

Many studies have investigated public reactions to nuclear accidents. However, few studies focused on more common events when a serious accident could have happened but did not. This study evaluated public response (emotional, cognitive, and behavioral) over three phases of a near-miss nuclear accident. Simulating a loss-of-coolant accident (LOCA) scenario, we manipulated (1) attribution for the initial cause of the incident (software failure vs. cyber terrorist attack vs. earthquake), (2) attribution for halting the incident (fail-safe system design vs. an intervention by an individual expert vs. a chance coincidence), and (3) level of uncertainty (certain vs. uncertain) about risk of a future radiation leak after the LOCA is halted. A total of 773 respondents were sampled using a 3 × 3 × 2 between-subjects design. Results from both MANCOVA and structural equation modeling (SEM) indicate that respondents experienced more negative affect, perceived more risk, and expressed more avoidance behavioral intention when the near-miss event was initiated by an external attributed source (e.g., earthquake) compared to an internally attributed source (e.g., software failure). Similarly, respondents also indicated greater negative affect, perceived risk, and avoidance behavioral intentions when the future impact of the near-miss incident on people and the environment remained uncertain. Results from SEM analyses also suggested that negative affect predicted risk perception, and both predicted avoidance behavior. Affect, risk perception, and avoidance behavior demonstrated high stability (i.e., reliability) from one phase to the next.


Ego depletion improves insight
Marci DeCaro & Charles Van Stockum
Thinking & Reasoning, forthcoming

Abstract:

Initial acts of self-control can reduce effort and performance on subsequent tasks - a phenomenon known as ego depletion. Ego depletion is thought to undermine the capacity or willingness to engage executive control, an important determinant of success for many tasks. We examined whether ego depletion improves performance on a task that favours less executive control: insight problem solving. In two experiments, participants completed an ego-depletion manipulation or a non-depleting control condition followed by an insight problem-solving task (i.e., matchstick arithmetic). Participants in the depleting condition demonstrated greater insight problem-solving accuracy than those in the non-depleting control condition. Priming theories of willpower did not impact these results. Although ego depletion is widely regarded as a "state of impairment", attendant decreases in executive control may foster insightful thinking.


Superhuman AI for heads-up no-limit poker: Libratus beats top professionals
Noam Brown & Tuomas Sandholm
Science, forthcoming

Abstract:

No-limit Texas hold'em is the most popular form of poker. Despite AI successes in perfect-information games, the private information and massive game tree have made no-limit poker difficult to tackle. We present Libratus, an AI that, in a 120,000-hand competition, defeated four top human specialist professionals in heads-up no-limit Texas hold'em, the leading benchmark and long-standing challenge problem in imperfect-information game solving. Our game-theoretic approach features application-independent techniques: an algorithm for computing a blueprint for the overall strategy, an algorithm that fleshes out the details of the strategy for subgames that are reached during play, and a self-improver algorithm that fixes potential weaknesses that opponents have identified in the blueprint strategy.


Mastering Chess and Shogi by Self-Play with a General Reinforcement Learning Algorithm
David Silver et al.
Google Working Paper, December 2017

Abstract:

The game of chess is the most widely-studied domain in the history of artificial intelligence. The strongest programs are based on a combination of sophisticated search techniques, domain-specific adaptations, and handcrafted evaluation functions that have been refined by human experts over several decades. In contrast, the AlphaGo Zero program recently achieved superhuman performance in the game of Go, by tabula rasa reinforcement learning from games of self-play. In this paper, we generalise this approach into a single AlphaZero algorithm that can achieve, tabula rasa, superhuman performance in many challenging domains. Starting from random play, and given no domain knowledge except the game rules, AlphaZero achieved within 24 hours a superhuman level of play in the games of chess and shogi (Japanese chess) as well as Go, and convincingly defeated a world-champion program in each case.


A stability bias effect among deceivers
Adam Charles Harvey et al.
Law and Human Behavior, December 2017, Pages 519-529

Abstract:

Research examining how truth tellers' and liars' verbal behavior is attenuated as a function of delay is largely absent from the literature, despite its important applied value. We examined this factor across 2 studies in which we examined the effects of a hypothetical delay (Experiment 1) or actual delay (Experiment 2) on liars' accounts. In Experiment 1 - an insurance claim interview setting - claimants either genuinely experienced a (staged) loss of a tablet device (n = 40) or pretended to have experienced the same loss (n = 40). Truth tellers were interviewed either immediately after the loss (n = 20) or 3 weeks after the loss (n = 20), whereas liars had to either pretend the loss occurred either immediately before (n = 20) or 3 weeks before (n = 20) the interview (i.e., hypothetical delay for liars). In Experiment 2 - a Human Intelligence gathering setting - sources had to either lie (n = 50) or tell the truth (n = 50) about a secret video they had seen concerning the placing of a spy device. Half of the truth tellers and liars where interviewed immediately after watching the video (n = 50), and half where interviewed 3-weeks later (n = 50; i.e., real delay for liars). Across both experiments, truth tellers interviewed after a delay reported fewer details than truth tellers interviewed immediately after the to-be-remembered event. In both studies, liars failed to simulate this pattern of forgetting and reported similar amounts of detail when interviewed without or after a delay, demonstrating a stability bias in reporting.


Personality, IQ, and Lifetime Earnings
Miriam Gensowski
Labour Economics, forthcoming

Abstract:

This paper estimates the effects of personality traits and IQ on lifetime earnings of the men and women of the Terman study, a high-IQ U.S. sample. Age-by-age earnings profiles allow a study of when personality traits affect earnings most, and for whom the effects are strongest. I document a concave life-cycle pattern in the payoffs to personality traits, with the largest effects between the ages of 40 and 60. An interaction of traits with education reveals that personality matters most for highly educated men. The largest effects are found for Conscientiousness, Extraversion, and Agreeableness (negative), where Conscientiousness operates partly through education, which also has significant returns.


Closing Your Eyes to Follow Your Heart: Avoiding Information to Protect a Strong Intuitive Preference
Kaitlin Woolley & Jane Risen
Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, forthcoming

Abstract:

Rationally, people should want to receive information that is costless and relevant for a decision. But people sometimes choose to remain ignorant. The current paper identifies intuitive-deliberative conflict as a driver of information avoidance. Moreover, we examine whether people avoid information not only to protect their feelings or experiences, but also to protect the decision itself. We predict that people avoid information that could encourage a more thoughtful, deliberative decision to make it easier to enact their intuitive preference. In Studies 1 and 2, people avoid learning the calories in a tempting dessert and compensation for a boring task to protect their preferences to eat the dessert and work on a more enjoyable task. The same people who want to avoid the information, however, use it when it is provided. In Studies 3-5, people decide whether to learn how much money they could earn by accepting an intuitively unappealing bet (that a sympathetic student performs poorly or that a hurricane hits a third-world country). Although intuitively unappealing, the bets are financially rational because they only have financial upside. If people avoid information in part to protect their intuitive preference, then avoidance should be greater when an intuitive preference is especially strong and when information could influence the decision. As predicted, avoidance is driven by the strength of the intuitive preference (Study 3) and, ironically, information avoidance is greater before a decision is made, when the information is decision relevant, than after, when the information is irrelevant for the decision (Studies 4 and 5).


Default neglect in attempts at social influence
Julian Zlatev et al.
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 26 December 2017, Pages 13643-13648

Abstract:

Current theories suggest that people understand how to exploit common biases to influence others. However, these predictions have received little empirical attention. We consider a widely studied bias with special policy relevance: the default effect, which is the tendency to choose whichever option is the status quo. We asked participants (including managers, law/business/medical students, and US adults) to nudge others toward selecting a target option by choosing whether to present that target option as the default. In contrast to theoretical predictions, we find that people often fail to understand and/or use defaults to influence others, i.e., they show "default neglect." First, in one-shot default-setting games, we find that only 50.8% of participants set the target option as the default across 11 samples (n = 2,844), consistent with people not systematically using defaults at all. Second, when participants have multiple opportunities for experience and feedback, they still do not systematically use defaults. Third, we investigate beliefs related to the default effect. People seem to anticipate some mechanisms that drive default effects, yet most people do not believe in the default effect on average, even in cases where they do use defaults. We discuss implications of default neglect for decision making, social influence, and evidence-based policy.


The counterintuitive influence of vocal affect on the efficacy of affectively-based persuasive messages
Joshua Guyer et al.
Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, January 2018, Pages 161-173

Abstract:

Three experiments examined the extent to which congruency between affective vocal qualities of speakers and the affective content of persuasive messages influenced attitude change. In Experiment 1, a 2 (attitude basis: affective vs. cognitive) × 4 (persuasive message: fully matched vs. partially matched vs. fully mismatched vs. written passage) between-participants experiment was conducted. Attitude change produced by the fully matched voice-content message did not differ from the written passage condition. However, both the partially matched and fully mismatched voice-content messages generated significantly more attitude change than the written passage. Experiment 2 replicated the findings of Experiment 1 and tested two explanations for the enhanced efficacy of voice-content incongruent messages. Supplementary analyses provide some evidence in support of an attribution explanation as a mechanism to account for these effects. Experiment 3 replicated the prior two experiments and tested four possible mechanisms for the persuasive effects of affective vocal-message incongruence. Analyses once again supported an attribution explanation for the incongruency effect.


Bayesian Occam's Razor Is a Razor of the People
Thomas Blanchard, Tania Lombrozo & Shaun Nichols
Cognitive Science, forthcoming

Abstract:

Occam's razor - the idea that all else being equal, we should pick the simpler hypothesis - plays a prominent role in ordinary and scientific inference. But why are simpler hypotheses better? One attractive hypothesis known as Bayesian Occam's razor (BOR) is that more complex hypotheses tend to be more flexible - they can accommodate a wider range of possible data - and that flexibility is automatically penalized by Bayesian inference. In two experiments, we provide evidence that people's intuitive probabilistic and explanatory judgments follow the prescriptions of BOR. In particular, people's judgments are consistent with the two most distinctive characteristics of BOR: They penalize hypotheses as a function not only of their numbers of free parameters but also as a function of the size of the parameter space, and they penalize those hypotheses even when their parameters can be "tuned" to fit the data better than comparatively simpler hypotheses.


Not My Type: Why Affective Decision-Makers Are Reluctant to Make Financial Decisions
Jane Jeongin Park & Aner Sela
Journal of Consumer Research, forthcoming

Abstract:

Why are people often uncomfortable dealing with financial decisions? We propose that people perceive financial decisions - more so than decisions in many other equally complex and important domains - as compatible with a cold, analytical mode of thinking and as highly incompatible with feelings and emotions. Consequently, the more people perceive themselves as inclined to rely on affect in their decisions, the more they experience self-concept incongruity with financial decisions (i.e., feeling that financial decisions are "not them"), and consequently show an increased tendency to avoid such decisions. Five studies demonstrate this phenomenon, using both consequential and hypothetical decisions; provide evidence for the proposed mechanism; and rule out alternative accounts, including perceived financial knowledge, expertise and self-efficacy perceptions, decision confidence, and preference for numerical information. The findings contribute to research on thinking styles and decision avoidance, and they underscore a unique characteristic of financial decisions that makes them stand out among many other decision types. In addition to their theoretical significance, the findings have practical implications for the communication of financial products and services.


Better Open Than Intellectual: The Benefits of Investment Personality Traits for Learning
Sophie von Stumm
Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, forthcoming

Abstract:

The investment theory of adult intelligence posits that individual differences in knowledge attainment result from people's differences in cognitive ability and their propensity to apply and invest that ability, which is referred to as investment personality traits. Here, we differentiated intellectual (i.e., intellectual curiosity) and nonintellectual investment (i.e., openness to experience), and we tested their respective predictive validity for knowledge attainment in four independent lab-based studies (overall N = 649). Openness to experience was positively associated with knowledge attainment across all four studies, and this effect was by and large independent of cognitive ability. By contrast, intellectual curiosity was not related to knowledge attainment. The findings suggest that openness to experience, rather than intellectual curiosity, is the investment personality trait that broadly benefits learning and adult intelligence.


When Being in a Positive Mood Increases Choice Deferral
Jordan Etkin & Anastasiya Pocheptsova Ghosh
Journal of Consumer Research, forthcoming

Abstract:

Consumers' choices are often accompanied by unrelated incidental moods. The positive mood caused by receiving a compliment, for example, may persist when one is choosing what service to book or which product to buy. How might being in a positive mood affect consumers' subsequent, unrelated choices? The present research demonstrates that being in a positive mood can make consumers more likely to defer choice. Four studies show that when choosing requires trade-offs between important choice attributes, being in a positive (vs. neutral) mood makes choosing more difficult and therefore increases the likelihood of deferring choice altogether. The findings further understanding of how incidental factors shape choice processes and outcomes and the role of emotions in decision-making.


Correlation Neglect in Belief Formation
Benjamin Enke & Florian Zimmermann
Review of Economic Studies, forthcoming

Abstract:

Many information structures generate correlated rather than mutually independent signals, the news media being a prime example. This paper provides experimental evidence that many people neglect the resulting double-counting problem in the updating process. In consequence, beliefs are too sensitive to the ubiquitous "telling and re-telling of stories" and exhibit excessive swings. We identify substantial and systematic heterogeneity in the presence of the bias and investigate the underlying mechanisms. The evidence points to the paramount importance of complexity in combination with people's problems in identifying and thinking through the correlation. Even though most participants in principle have the computational skills that are necessary to develop rational beliefs, many approach the problem in a wrong way when the environment is moderately complex. Thus, experimentally nudging people's focus towards the correlation and the underlying independent signals has large effects on beliefs.


Who Benefits from Diagrams and Illustrations in Math Problems? Ability and Attitudes Matter
Jennifer Cooper, Pooja Sidney & Martha Alibali
Applied Cognitive Psychology, forthcoming

Abstract:

How do diagrams and illustrations affect mathematical problem solving? Past research suggests that diagrams should promote correct performance. However, illustrations may provide a supportive context for problem solving, or they may distract students with seductive details. Moreover, effects may not be uniform across student subgroups. This study assessed the effects of diagrams and illustrations on undergraduates' trigonometry problem solving. We used a 2 (Diagram Presence) × 2 (Illustration Presence) within-subjects design, and our analysis considered students' mathematics ability and attitudes towards mathematics. Participants solved problems more accurately when they included diagrams. This effect was stronger for students who had more positive mathematics attitudes, especially when there was an illustration present. Illustrations were beneficial for students with high mathematics ability but detrimental for students with lower ability. Considering individual differences in ability and attitude is essential for understanding the effects of different types of visual representations on problem solving.


Much Ado About Aha!: Insight Problem Solving Is Strongly Related to Working Memory Capacity and Reasoning Ability
Adam Chuderski & Jan Jastrzębski
Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, forthcoming

Abstract:

A battery comprising 4 fluid reasoning tests as well as 13 working memory (WM) tasks that involved storage, recall, updating, binding, and executive control, was applied to 318 adults in order to evaluate the true relationship of reasoning ability and WM capacity (WMC) to insight problem solving, measured using 40 verbal, spatial, math, matchstick, and remote associates problems (insight problems). WMC predicted 51.8% of variance in insight problem solving and virtually explained its almost isomorphic link to reasoning ability (84.6% of shared variance). The strong link between WMC and insight pertained generally to most WM tasks and insight problems, was identical for problems solved with and without reported insight, was linear throughout the ability levels, and was not mediated by age, motivation, anxiety, psychoticism, and openness to experience. In contrast to popular views on the sudden and holistic nature of insight, the solving of insight problems results primarily from typical operations carried out by the basic WM mechanisms that are responsible for the maintenance, retrieval, transformation, and control of information in the broad range of intellectual tasks (including fluid reasoning). Little above and beyond WM is unique about insight.


Accountability and adaptive performance under uncertainty: A long-term view
Welton Chang et al.
Judgment and Decision Making, November 2017, Pages 610-626

Abstract:

Accountability pressures are a ubiquitous feature of social systems: virtually everyone must answer to someone for something. Behavioral research has, however, warned that accountability, specifically a focus on being responsible for outcomes, tends to produce suboptimal judgments. We qualify this view by demonstrating the long-term adaptive benefits of outcome accountability in uncertain, dynamic environments. More than a thousand randomly assigned forecasters participated in a ten-month forecasting tournament in conditions of control, process, outcome or hybrid accountability. Accountable forecasters outperformed non-accountable ones. Holding forecasters accountable to outcomes ("getting it right") boosted forecasting accuracy beyond holding them accountable for process ("thinking the right way"). The performance gap grew over time. Process accountability promoted more effective knowledge sharing, improving accuracy among observers. Hybrid (process plus outcome) accountability boosted accuracy relative to process, and improved knowledge sharing relative to outcome accountability. Overall, outcome and process accountability appear to make complementary contributions to performance when forecasters confront moderately noisy, dynamic environments where signal extraction requires both knowledge pooling and individual judgments.


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