Read about the latest research published in Psychological Science:
Jordan Tong, Daniel Feiler, and Anastasia Ivantsova
Decision making often involves choosing among options without complete information, forcing us to estimate their relative favorability. We tend to choose the option with the highest estimated value, but we may fail to account for random error associated with these estimates. This blind spot, the authors hypothesized, leads us to be overoptimistic about the options we ultimately choose. Over four experiments, the authors asked participants to estimate house sale prices, job candidate scores, or the amount of money contained in jars. In general, participants did not make biased estimates when they evaluated options independently, but they significantly overestimated the most valuable option when it was part of a set. Overestimations were more dramatic when the options’ true values were more clustered together and when a greater number of options were available. Participants overestimated even when they had information directly signaling the value of each option. These findings add to previous research showing how motivational and emotional factors contribute to overoptimism, revealing that contextual factors also play a role.
Natalie Biderman and Liad Mudrik
Several studies have indicated that the relationship between an object and the surrounding scene can be perceived and can influence responding outside participants’ awareness, suggesting that conscious awareness is not necessary for integration. Some research has failed to replicate the phenomenon, however, leading the authors to reexamine their own previous work using a masking paradigm. In one experiment, for example, participants were exposed to a series of images onscreen. A prime image appeared for 33 ms and was preceded and followed by mask images. A target image then appeared for 500 ms and participants reported whether the target was incongruent or congruent as quickly and accurately as possible. Contrary to the authors’ previous findings, the results of these experiments showed no evidence that prime congruency affected target-classification accuracy or reaction times. Additional Bayesian analyses indicated that the results could not be explained by inconclusive or underpowered data. On the basis of these and other recent findings, the authors conclude that there is currently no compelling evidence for object-scene congruency processing outside awareness.
Matthew D. Hilchey, Jason Rajsic, Greg Huffman, Raymond M. Klein, and Jay Pratt
Under what conditions is a return of attention to a prior target location facilitated or inhibited? In some paradigms, how quickly participants discriminate a stimulus feature after its location has been repeated or changed is taken as evidence of attentional bias. But these reaction times are affected by whether the stimulus feature (or response) also repeats, which requires integration of location and feature information. To separate these phenomena, the authors used eye movements to measure orienting bias independently of integration effects. In two experiments, participants saw a series of targets with randomly repeating locations and they pressed the key that corresponded to each target. As in previous work, key-press responses showed evidence of integration effects: Participants responded more quickly when both the target location and form either repeated or switched. Eye-movement data, however, revealed a consistent reorienting bias: Eye movements to the target were slower when the target location repeated than when it switched. Together, these findings show that inhibited-reorienting effects exist and can be distinguished from integration effects using an oculomotor measure.