New Research From Psychological Science

Read about the latest research published in Psychological Science:

Thinking Fast Increases Framing Effects in Risky Decision Making

Lisa Guo, Jennifer S. Trueblood, and Adele Diederich

Researchers have found that the way a choice is framed influences the decision people make. For example, studies have shown that people tend to choose safer options when problems are presented in terms of gains, and more risky options when problems are presented in terms of losses. In this study, the researchers examined how time pressure interacts with framing during risky decision making by having participants make decisions about gambles framed in terms of gains or losses under different time pressures. Participants more often choose safer options when problems were framed in terms of gains, and riskier options when problems were framed in terms of losses when they were under time pressure. This finding supports the dual-process hypothesis, which posits that framing effects are driven by a fast, intuitive processing system.

If It’s Difficult to Pronounce, It Might Not Be Risky: The Effect of Fluency on Judgment of Risk Does Not Generalize to New Stimuli

Stěpán Bahník and Marek A. Vranka

Research has shown that stimuli that are processed more fluently are seen as being more likable, valuable, and safer than stimuli that are processed less fluently. In line with this research, items that are more difficult to pronounce (i.e., that are disfluent) are judged to be more harmful. In a series of seven studies, the authors used methodology adopted from a 2009 study by Song and Schwarz (in which participants were found to perceive stimuli with harder-to-pronounce names as riskier) to examine whether the relationship between fluency and perceived harmfulness depends on the category of the object being evaluated. Participants rated the riskiness of stimulus words (some new and some taken from the Song and Schwarz study) presented in the context of different scenarios (e.g., reading about amusement park rides when one was desirous of — or avoidant of — adventurous rides). The relationship between pronounceability and perceived risk was found to be dependent on the stimuli that was used and in the last study, pronounceability was confounded with word length. These findings call into question the relationship between pronounceability and risk.

True Numerical Cognition in the Wild        

Steven T. Piantadosi and Jessica F. Cantlon   

Researchers have created algorithms describing the representation underlying numerical reasoning in animals. These algorithms, which have been tested in the lab, predict how animals should behave when faced with a quantitative decision. The authors were presented with an opportunity to test these algorithms in a group of free-ranging baboons. In 2015, Strandburg-Peshkin, Farine, Couzin, and Crofoot published an article in which they had used GPS collars to track the movements of a troop of wild baboons. This article showed that baboons make decisions on troop movement democratically on the basis of the relative quantity of animals heading in different directions. The authors used the data from this study to examine whether the baboons relied on numerical representations when making troop-movement decisions. They analyzed the data using 14 different models that used different parameters to describe troop-movement decisions. The researchers found that models that used approximate-number comparisons with a compressed scale best described troop movements, suggesting the decisions made by these baboons relied on numerical representations.

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