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Read about the latest research published in Psychological Science.

Deliberation’s Blindsight: How Cognitive Load Can Improve Judgments

Janina A. Hoffmann, Bettina von Helversen, and Jörg Rieskamp

When one is under a high cognitive load, why does task performance increase in some cases but decrease in others? Participants performed a multiple-cue judgment task in which they switched from a rule-based to a similarity-based judgment strategy as cognitive load increased. This switch in strategy harmed their performance on linear judgment tasks but improved their performance on nonlinear judgment tasks. This suggests that understanding individuals’ cognitive strategies may help predict their performance under high-cognitive-load conditions.

Group Heterogeneity Increases the Risks of Large Group Size: A Longitudinal Study of Productivity in Research Groups

Jonathon N. Cummings, Sara Kiesler, Reza Bosagh Zadeh, and Aruna D. Balakrishnan

Are larger groups more productive than smaller groups? After examining group size, heterogeneity, and productivity in more than 500 research groups, the authors found that as a group’s size increased, so did its productivity. However, the researchers also found that the marginal productivity of a group decreased as heterogeneity increased. This indicates that there may be limits to the benefits of diversity, especially in larger research groups.

Not Just for Consumers: Context Effects Are Fundamental to Decision Making

Jennifer S. Trueblood, Scott D. Brown, Andrew Heathcote, and Jerome R. Busemeyer

Although context effects have been observed in high-level decision-making tasks, there has been little research into whether they occur in low-level decision-making tasks. In a series of three experiments, participants were asked to indicate the largest of three rectangles. Each experiment included a decoy rectangle meant to induce one of the three types of context effects — compromise, similarity, or attraction. Researchers were successful in inducing all three context effects, which suggests that context effects do occur in low-level decision making and may be a general feature of human choice behavior.

Children Value Informativity Over Logic in Word Learning

Michael Ramscar, Melody Dye, and Joseph Klein

Do children and adults learn the meaning of words differently? A group of children and adults participated in an ambiguous-word learning task that included novel objects and labels. The researchers found that children matched the words and the labels on the basis of informativity — how reliably a word co-occurred with objects or events relative to competing words — whereas adults seemed to use a more strategic, exclusionary approach during the learning task. This study reveals differences in the way adults and children learn the meaning of words.