What you think

Kevin Lewis

April 17, 2018

Perspective mistaking: Accurately understanding the mind of another requires getting perspective, not taking perspective
Tal Eyal, Mary Steffel & Nicholas Epley
Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, April 2018, Pages 547-571


Taking another person's perspective is widely presumed to increase interpersonal understanding. Very few experiments, however, have actually tested whether perspective taking increases accuracy when predicting another person's thoughts, feelings, attitudes, or other mental states. Those that do yield inconsistent results, or they confound accuracy with egocentrism. Here we report 25 experiments testing whether being instructed to adopt another person's perspective increases interpersonal insight. These experiments include a wide range of accuracy tests that disentangle egocentrism and accuracy, such as predicting another person's emotions from facial expressions and body postures, predicting fake versus genuine smiles, predicting when a person is lying or telling the truth, and predicting a spouse's activity preferences and consumer attitudes. Although a large majority of pretest participants believed that perspective taking would systematically increase accuracy on these tasks, we failed to find any consistent evidence that it actually did so. If anything, perspective taking decreased accuracy overall while occasionally increasing confidence in judgment. Perspective taking reduced egocentric biases, but the information used in its place was not systematically more accurate. A final experiment confirmed that getting another person's perspective directly, through conversation, increased accuracy but that perspective taking did not. Increasing interpersonal accuracy seems to require gaining new information rather than utilizing existing knowledge about another person. Understanding the mind of another person is therefore enabled by getting perspective, not simply taking perspective.

Do Evaluations Rise With Experience?
Kieran O'Connor & Amar Cheema
Psychological Science, forthcoming


Sequential evaluation is the hallmark of fair review: The same raters assess the merits of applicants, athletes, art, and more using standard criteria. We investigated one important potential contaminant in such ubiquitous decisions: Evaluations become more positive when conducted later in a sequence. In four studies, (a) judges' ratings of professional dance competitors rose across 20 seasons of a popular television series, (b) university professors gave higher grades when the same course was offered multiple times, and (c) in an experimental test of our hypotheses, evaluations of randomly ordered short stories became more positive over a 2-week sequence. As judges completed repeated evaluations, they experienced more fluent decision making, producing more positive judgments (Study 4 mediation). This seemingly simple bias has widespread and impactful consequences for evaluations of all kinds. We also report four supplementary studies to bolster our findings and address alternative explanations.

Good Sound, Good Research: How Audio Quality Influences Perceptions of the Research and Researcher
Eryn Newman & Norbert Schwarz
Science Communication, April 2018, Pages 246-257


Increasingly, scientific communications are recorded and made available online. While researchers carefully draft the words they use, the quality of the recording is at the mercy of technical staff. Does it make a difference? We presented identical conference talks (Experiment 1) and radio interviews from NPR's Science Friday (Experiment 2) in high or low audio quality and asked people to evaluate the researcher and the research they presented. Despite identical content, people evaluated the research and researcher less favorably when the audio quality was low, suggesting that audio quality can influence impressions of science.

Monkey See, Monkey Do: The Effect of Social Influence on Selective-Exposure Bias
John Milton Adams et al.
European Journal of Social Psychology, forthcoming


Selective-exposure bias refers to the tendency to predominantly seek out attitude-consistent information and avoid attitude-inconsistent information. Although researchers have proposed and tested several underlying psychological factors that might contribute to this tendency, the potential role of social influence has not been addressed. In the present research, we address this issue. In four present experiments (total N = 645), participants' selective-exposure bias was significantly reduced when the bias was portrayed as non-normative (vs. normative). In Experiment 4, we obtained evidence for the possibility that this social-norm manipulation could result in effects on attitudes through information selection. Overall, this research contributes novel evidence for the effect of social influence on selective-exposure bias.

That's My Truth: Evidence for Involuntary Opinion Confirmation
Michael Gilead, Moran Sela & Anat Maril
Social Psychological and Personality Science, forthcoming


Past research has investigated deliberate mental acts that allow people to remain entrenched in their convictions. The purpose of the current investigation was to examine whether opinion-confirmation processes can occur involuntarily. We conducted experiments wherein participants made speeded judgments of the grammatical accuracy of statements pertaining to various matters of opinion, and subsequently rated their agreement with those statements. The results show that participants more readily verify the grammaticality of a statement when it corresponds to their opinion. These findings may help explain why opinions are sometimes change resistant, in showing that acceptance (rejection) of confirmatory (contradictory) opinions can occur involuntarily. We discuss possible applications of the paradigm described herein.

Do People Inherently Dislike Uncertain Advice?
Celia Gaertig & Joseph Simmons
Psychological Science, April 2018, Pages 504-520


Research suggests that people prefer confident to uncertain advisors. But do people dislike uncertain advice itself? In 11 studies (N = 4,806), participants forecasted an uncertain event after receiving advice and then rated the quality of the advice (Studies 1-7, S1, and S2) or chose between two advisors (Studies 8-9). Replicating previous research, our results showed that confident advisors were judged more favorably than advisors who were "not sure." Importantly, however, participants were not more likely to prefer certain advice: They did not dislike advisors who expressed uncertainty by providing ranges of outcomes, giving numerical probabilities, or saying that one event is "more likely" than another. Additionally, when faced with an explicit choice, participants were more likely to choose an advisor who provided uncertain advice over an advisor who provided certain advice. Our findings suggest that people do not inherently dislike uncertain advice. Advisors benefit from expressing themselves with confidence, but not from communicating false certainty.

Magical thinking decreases across adulthood
Nadia Brashier & Kristi Multhaup
Psychology and Aging, December 2017, Pages 681-688


Magical thinking, or illogical causal reasoning such as superstitions, decreases across childhood, but almost no data speak to whether this developmental trajectory continues across the life span. In four experiments, magical thinking decreased across adulthood. This pattern replicated across two judgment domains and could not be explained by age-related differences in tolerance of ambiguity, domain-specific knowledge, or search for meaning. These data complement and extend findings that experience, accumulated over decades, guides older adults' judgments so that they match, or even exceed, young adults' performance. They also counter participants' expectations, and cultural sayings (e.g., "old wives' tales"), that suggest that older adults are especially superstitious.

Living near the edge: How extreme outcomes and their neighbors drive risky choice
Elliot Ludvig et al.
Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, forthcoming


Extreme stimuli are often more salient in perception and memory than moderate stimuli. In risky choice, when people learn the odds and outcomes from experience, the extreme outcomes (best and worst) also stand out. This additional salience leads to more risk-seeking for relative gains than for relative losses - the opposite of what people do when queried in terms of explicit probabilities. Previous research has suggested that this pattern arises because the most extreme experienced outcomes are more prominent in memory. An important open question, however, is what makes these extreme outcomes more prominent? Here we assess whether extreme outcomes stand out because they fall at the edges of the experienced outcome distributions or because they are distinct from other outcomes. Across four experiments, proximity to the edge determined what was treated as extreme: Outcomes at or near the edge of the outcome distribution were both better remembered and more heavily weighted in choice. This prominence did not depend on two metrics of distinctiveness: lower frequency or distance from other outcomes. This finding adds to evidence from other domains that the values at the edges of a distribution have a special role.

Seeking and Avoiding Choice Closure to Enhance Outcome Satisfaction
Yangjie Gu, Simona Botti & David Faro
Journal of Consumer Research, forthcoming


Consumers gain choice closure when they perceive a sense of finality over a past decision and limit comparisons between the selected and the forgone options. We investigate consumers' ability to make strategic use of choice closure to enhance outcome satisfaction. Seven studies show that consumers experience greater satisfaction when they achieve choice closure with an inferior outcome and when they do not achieve choice closure with a superior outcome; however, they expect to be more satisfied by avoiding choice closure with an inferior outcome and by seeking it with a superior outcome. We provide a rationale for this experience-expectation contrast based on rule overgeneralization. Consumers form their expectation on an implicit rule learned and internalized in a context in which it is appropriate and advantageous: when they aim to increase satisfaction with a future choice; however, consumers erroneously apply the same implicit rule to a different context, one in which they aim to increase satisfaction with a past choice. We conclude that consumers are unlikely to be able to make strategic use of choice closure to enhance satisfaction with the outcome of a decision they have made.

Are professional basketball players reference-dependent?
Lester Lusher, Chuan He & Stephen Fick
Applied Economics, forthcoming


Models with reference-dependent preferences suggest that agents exert considerable effort to avoid falling below a reference point and 'losing'. We provide visual and statistical evidence that player performances in the National Basketball Association (NBA) bunch at salient, normatively extraneous round numbers. Using data on nearly three million shot attempts with precise (x, y) coordinates, we find that players improve free throw accuracy and attempt shots closer to the hoop when shooting for a round number. The results are strongest for players on home teams, suggesting that the reference-dependent enters preferences through an external, social evaluation channel.

Musical Preferences Predict Personality: Evidence From Active Listening and Facebook Likes
Gideon Nave et al.
Psychological Science, forthcoming


Research over the past decade has shown that various personality traits are communicated through musical preferences. One limitation of that research is external validity, as most studies have assessed individual differences in musical preferences using self-reports of music-genre preferences. Are personality traits communicated through behavioral manifestations of musical preferences? We addressed this question in two large-scale online studies with demographically diverse populations. Study 1 (N = 22,252) shows that reactions to unfamiliar musical excerpts predicted individual differences in personality - most notably, openness and extraversion - above and beyond demographic characteristics. Moreover, these personality traits were differentially associated with particular music-preference dimensions. The results from Study 2 (N = 21,929) replicated and extended these findings by showing that an active measure of naturally occurring behavior, Facebook Likes for musical artists, also predicted individual differences in personality. In general, our findings establish the robustness and external validity of the links between musical preferences and personality.

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