Some Stumbling Blocks in Thinking, Judgment and .Some Stumbling Blocks in Thinking, Judgment and

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  • LP 8C2 Stumbling blocks 1 02/12/16

    Some Stumbling Blocks in Thinking, Judgment and Decision Making

    Representative heuristic Availability heuristic

    o Nostalgia (not in Schacter et. al.) o Ego-centric bias (not in Schacter et. al.) o Illusory correlations or illusion of correlation

    Framing Effects o Reason-based choice (not in Schacter et. al.)

    Prospect Theory Confirmation bias (not in Schacter et. al.)

    o Illusory correlations (Chapter 16) Belief bias Groupthink (Chapter 16) Better than average belief (not in Schacter et. al.) Fallacy of positive instances (not in Schacter et. al.) Hindsight bias (not in Schacter et. al.)

    As demonstrated with my own personal stories, just learning about these stumbling blocks in thinking and decision making does not automatically make you immune to their effects. You must

    (1) know about the pitfall in thinking and decision making.

    (2) recognize and notice when you are using the strategy.

    (3) take measure to counteract their effects on your decision making process (eg. consider alternative explanations, or why you might be wrong).

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    Representative Heuristic

    A thinking strategy where we make a judgment of likelihood based on how well it matches our mental representation, prototype or stereotype.

    If the person, event or object is similar to our mental representation, image, stereotype, or prototype, then we are likely to believe that event.

    If the person, event or object is dissimilar to our to our mental representation, image, stereotype, or prototype, then we are not likely believe that event.

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    Availability heuristic The availability heuristic is a thinking strategy in which

    the likelihood of an event is estimated on the basis of how easily we can recall instances of the event from memory. Memorable and vivid events are easier to recall. The availability heuristic is one thinking strategy that can lead to false conclusions and beliefs. Other pitfalls in thinking can arise from the availability heuristic such as the following:

    Nostalgia: The belief that things were better in the past than they actually were.

    Ego-centric bias: The tendency to think that you contributed more to a relationship or group effort than you actually did.

    Illusory correlations: The mistaken belief that two factor or events are related when they are not.

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    Ego-centric bias

    The belief that you contributed more to a group effort, such as a marriage or team project than you actually did.

    This occurs because you can easily recall your

    contribution (the availability heuristic), rather than someone else's contributions, thus overestimating the relative proportion of your contributions.

    Researchers Michael Ross and Fiore Sicoly (1970) found that couples overestimated the relative contribution to their relationship: o both would say they put the dishes away more

    often than the other person, o the other person starts arguments more, etc.

    Basketball teams were more likely to attribute the turning point of the game to their own team than of the other team (regardless if it was a men's or women's teamthere was no difference among gender).

    A student wrote that he thinks CEOs deserve an enormous salary because they think of all the thing they do for their corporation and not all of the other things everyone else does.

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    Ego-Centric Bias Some people are motivated to overestimate the amount of work they contributed to a group effort, but the overestimation cannot be entirely explained by motivation. There is a cognitive component.

    Recognizing the ego-centric bias, makes it is easier to understand how disagreements about relative contributions to group efforts can lead to disagreements, arguments and conflict.

    Without recognizing the possibility of the ego-centric bias, it can make it difficult to work together in good faith and difficult to maintain good relations.

    It is difficult to gauge who is overestimating their contribution in hindsight. Most students always accuse the other person of overestimating their contribution.


    Ross, M. and Sicoly, F. (1979). Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. 37, 322-336.

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    Student examples with explanations and impacts Example: Kris's brother John and her boyfriend Bill were building an entertainment center for her living room. When they had finished, John complained to his sister "I had to do practically all the work and your lazy boyfriend barely helped at all!" Later, when Kris was with Bill he told her "You know, your brother really didn't help out that much with the entertainment center. I had to do most of the real work." Explanation of egocentric bias: Both John and Bill thought that they had contributed more to the building project than they actually had.

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    Example: I talked to my dad on the phone last night, and he told me that he wished I could have found out the bus schedule from Eugene to Portland for him, so he could choose to rent a car, or take the bus to Eugene (he flies in today). He said that he had already done so much in preparation for this visit, that the least I could do is check on the bus schedule. Explanation of ego-centric bias: He forgets that I have done a lot of work on this end to prepare for his visit. He only realized what he as done, and to him, he feels that he has contributed more than I have.

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    Example: When I was young, my brother and I had to do chores around the house. One of these chores was to put away the dishes after the dishwasher finished washing them. Quite often my brother would disagree with me about whose turn it is to put away the dishes. He would claim that he seems to always put away the dishes, while I would think the same thing. Explanation of the ego-centric bias: When estimating how often each of us puts away the dishes, we easily think of all the times we put away the dishes and not the times the other person put away the dishes, thus inflating our own estimate.

  • LP 8C2 Stumbling blocks 9 02/12/16

    Student examples of the ego-centric bias without explanations or impacts

    Last spring my old roommate and I decided to move in together. Starting form the end of March we started calling some places for information about the apartments. "You are not doing your part," said my old roommate, "you have not found any apartments yet." In fact, I had already called and went to see by myself the several apartments. She was by herself and did not notice how much effort I had contributed. My husband feels that he has done everything to get us ready for our move in August. He tells me that I have done nothing in preparation for this move. This is not true. He just is unable to see what I do because he is busy doing his part of the move. Alexis and I live together. I think Alexis is on the phone way too much and that I barely use it. One day, when I am on the phone, Alexis tells me that I should do something else besides being on the phone because that is all I ever do, and she hardly ever uses it. In truth, according to my last phone bill, we are on the phone about the same amount of time.

  • LP 8C2 Stumbling blocks 10 02/12/16

    Anchoring and Adjusting Anchoring: The tendency, in making judgments, to rely on the first piece of information encountered or information that comes most quickly to mind. The initial piece of information serves as an anchor, or reference point in decision making.

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    Anchoring and Adjusting Scott is intelligent, industrious, impulsive, critical, stubborn and envious. Chris is envious, stubborn, critical, impulsive, industrious and intelligent.

  • LP 8C2 Stumbling blocks 13 02/12/16

    Framing Effects Framing effects are when people give different answers to the same problem depending on how it is phrased (or framed). In rational choice theory, two frames are logically equivalent, should have the same response.

    Imagine that the U.S. is preparing for the outbreak of an unusual disease, which is expected to kill 600 people. Two alternative programs have been proposed. Assume that the exact scientific estimates of the consequences of the programs are as follows:

    Lives Saved

    72% prefer Program 1

    However, when you describe it in the following way, which is logically equivalent to the first,

    Lives Lost

    78% prefer

    Program 2

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    Framing Effects Unleaded Gas: $ 4.05 $ 3.95 cash discount Unleaded Gas: $ 4.05 credit card surcharge $ 3.95 Most people prefer a gas stations that provide the cash discount than the credit card surcharge.

    Psychological Science, Fifth Edition Copyright 2015 W. W. Norton & Company

  • LP 8C2 Stumbling blocks 15 02/12/16

    Framing Effects According to rational decision theory, each of the four programs have the same expected value (probability x lives saved). In each of the first description, people tend to be risk aversive with gains (lives saved). In the second case, they are risk seeking with losses (lives lost). When college-aged female participants were randomly assigned to receive

    A pamphlet describing the negative consequences of not performing breast self-examination (BSE)