Research on the two fundamental dimensions of social judgment, namely warmth and competence, has shown that warmth has a primary and a dominant role in information gathering about others. In two studies we examined whether the sociability and morality components of warmth play distinct roles in such a process. Study 1 (N=60) investigated which traits were mostly selected when forming impressions about others. The results showed that, regardless of the task goal, traits related to morality and sociability were differently processed. Furthermore, participants were more interested in obtaining information about morality than about sociability when asked to form a global impression about others. Study 2 (N=98) explored the adoption of asymmetric/symmetric strategies when asking questions to make inferences on others. As predicted, participants adopted an asymmetrically disconfirming strategy on morality traits, while they looked for more symmetrical evidence on sociability or competence traits. Overall, our findings indicated a distinct and a dominant role of the moral component of warmth in the information-gathering process. Copyright © 2010 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.
Sacchi S, Rusconi P, Bonomi M, Cherubini P (2014) Effects of asymmetric questions on impression formation:
A trade-off between evidence diagnosticity and frequency, Social Psychology 45 (1) pp. 41-53
When examining social targets, people may ask asymmetric questions, that is, questions for which ?yes? and ?no? answers
are neither equally diagnostic nor equally frequent. The consequences of this information-gathering strategy on impression formation
deserve empirical investigation. The present work explored the role played by the trade-off between the diagnosticity and frequency of
answers that follow asymmetric questions. In Study 1, participants received answers to symmetric/asymmetric questions on an anonymous
social target. In Study 2, participants read answers to a specific symmetric/asymmetric question provided by different group members.
Overall, the results of both studies indicate that asymmetric questions had less impact on impressions than did symmetric questions,
suggesting that individuals are more sensitive to data frequency than diagnosticity when forming impressions.
Cherubini P, Rusconi P, Russo S, Di Bari S, Sacchi S (2010) Preferences for different questions when testing hypotheses in an abstract task: positivity does play a role, asymmetry does not., Acta Psychol (Amst) 134 (2) pp. 162-174
Previous studies on hypothesis-testing behaviour have reported systematic preferences for posing positive questions (i.e., inquiries about features that are consistent with the truth of the hypothesis) and different types of asymmetric questions (i.e., questions where the hypothesis confirming and the hypothesis disconfirming responses have different evidential strength). Both tendencies can contribute - in some circumstances - to confirmation biases (i.e., the improper acceptance or maintenance of an incorrect hypothesis). The empirical support for asymmetric testing is, however, scarce and partly contradictory, and the relative strength of positive testing and asymmetric testing has not been empirically compared. In four studies where subjects were asked to select (Experiment 1) or evaluate (Experiments 2-4) questions for controlling an abstract hypothesis, we orthogonally balanced the positivity/negativity of questions by their symmetry/asymmetry (Experiments 1-3), or by the type of asymmetry (confirmatory vs disconfirmatory; Experiment 4). In all Experiments participants strongly preferred positive to negative questions. Their choices were on the other hand mostly unaffected by symmetry and asymmetry in general, or - more specifically - by different types of asymmetry. Other results indicated that participants were sensitive to the diagnosticity of the questions (Experiments 1-3), and that they preferred testing features with a high probability under the focal hypothesis (Experiment 4). In the discussion we argue that recourse to asymmetric testing - observed in some previous studies using more contextualized problems - probably depends on context-related motivations and prior knowledge. In abstract tasks, where that knowledge is not available, more simple strategies - such as positive testing - are prevalent.
Rusconi P, McKenzie CRM (2013) Insensitivity and oversensitivity to answer diagnosticity in hypothesis testing, Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology 66 (12) pp. 2443-2464
Two experiments examined how people perceive the diagnosticity of different answers ("yes" and "no") to the same question. We manipulated whether the "yes" and the "no" answers conveyed the same amount of information or not, as well as the presentation format of the probabilities of the features inquired about. In Experiment 1, participants were presented with only the percentages of occurrence of the features, which most straightforwardly apply to the diagnosticity of "yes" answers. In Experiment 2, participants received in addition the percentages of the absence of features, which serve to assess the diagnosticity of "no" answers. Consistent with previous studies, we found that participants underestimated the difference in the diagnosticity conveyed by different answers to the same question. However, participants' insensitivity was greater when the normative (Bayesian) diagnosticity of the "no" answer was higher than that of the "yes" answer. We also found oversensitivity to answer diagnosticity, whereby participants valued as differentially diagnostic two answers that were normatively equal in terms of their diagnosticity. Presenting to participants the percentages of occurrence of the features inquired about together with their complements increased their sensitivity to the diagnosticity of answers. We discuss the implications of these findings for confirmation bias in hypothesis testing. © 2013 © 2013 The Experimental Psychology Society.
This article examines individuals' expectations in a social hypothesis testing task. Participants selected questions from a list to investigate the presence of personality traits in a target individual. They also identified the responses that they expected to receive and the likelihood of the expected responses. The results of two studies indicated that when people asked questions inquiring about the hypothesized traits that did not entail strong a priori beliefs, they expected to find evidence confirming the hypothesis under investigation. These confirming expectations were more pronounced for symmetric questions, in which the diagnosticity and frequency of the expected evidence did not conflict. When the search for information was asymmetric, confirming expectations were diminished, likely as a consequence of either the rareness or low diagnosticity of the hypothesis-confirming outcome. We also discuss the implications of these findings for confirmation bias.
Research has shown that warmth and competence are core dimensions on which perceivers judge others and that warmth has a primary role at various phases of impression formation. Three studies explored whether the two components of warmth (i.e., sociability and morality) have distinct roles in predicting the global impression of social groups. In Study 1 (N= 105) and Study 2 (N= 112), participants read an immigration scenario depicting an unfamiliar social group in terms of high (vs. low) morality, sociability, and competence. In both studies, participants were asked to report their global impression of the group. Results showed that global evaluations were better predicted by morality than by sociability or competence-trait ascriptions. Study 3 (N= 86) further showed that the effect of moral traits on group global evaluations was mediated by the perception of threat. The importance of these findings for the impression-formation process is discussed. © 2011 The British Psychological Society.
Reverberi C, Rusconi P, Paulesu E, Cherubini P (2009) Response demands and the recruitment of heuristic strategies in syllogistic reasoning, Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology 62 (3) pp. 513-530
Two experiments investigated whether dealing with a homogeneous subset of syllogisms with time-constrained responses encouraged participants to develop and use heuristics for abstract (Experiment 1) and thematic (Experiment 2) syllogisms. An atmosphere-based heuristic accounted for most responses with both abstract and thematic syllogisms. With thematic syllogisms, a weaker effect of a belief heuristic was also observed, mainly where the correct response was inconsistent with the atmosphere of the premises. Analytic processes appear to have played little role in the time-constrained condition, whereas their involvement increased in a self-paced, unconstrained condition. From a dual-process perspective, the results further specify how task demands affect the recruitment of heuristic and analytic systems of reasoning. Because the syllogisms and experimental procedure were the same as those used in a previous neuroimaging study by Goel, Buchel, Frith, and Dolan (2000), the result also deepen our understanding of the cognitive processes investigated by that study. © 2008 The Experimental Psychology Society.
Rusconi P, Marelli M, Russo S, D'Addario M, Cherubini P (2013) Integration of base rates and new information in an abstract hypothesis-testing task., Br J Psychol 104 (2) pp. 193-211
In two studies, we investigated how people use base rates and the presence versus the absence of new information to judge which of two hypotheses is more likely. Participants were given problems based on two decks of cards printed with 0-4 letters. A table showed the relative frequencies of the letters on the cards within each deck. Participants were told the letters that were printed on or absent from a card the experimenter had drawn. Base rates were conveyed by telling participants that the experimenter had chosen the deck by drawing from an urn containing, in different proportions, tickets marked either 'deck 1' or 'deck 2'. The task was to judge from which of the two decks the card was most likely drawn. Prior probabilities and the evidential strength of the subset of present clues (computed as 'weight of evidence') were the only significant predictors of participants' dichotomous (both studies) and continuous (Study 2) judgments. The evidential strength of all clues was not a significant predictor of participants' judgments in either study, and no significant interactions emerged. We discuss the results as evidence for additive integration of base rates and the new present information in hypothesis testing.
Rusconi P, Riva P, Cherubini P, Montali L (2010) Taking into account the observers' uncertainty: A graduated approach to the credibility of the patient's pain evaluation, Journal of Behavioral Medicine 33 (1) pp. 60-71
This article presents two experiments aiming to investigate the adoption of a graduated measure to describe credibility attribution by observers who evaluate patients' pain accounts. A total of 160 medical students were required to express a credibility judgment on the pain intensity level of hypothetical patients. We used 16 vignettes based on a factorial mixed-design. Within-participants factors were the reported pain, the presence of a physical sign, the patient's facial expression and the patient's gender, and between-groups factors were the patient's age and the geographical distribution of the patient's name. Results confirm the well-established tendency not to believe patients' self-reports and provide information regarding the evaluators' uncertainty. The findings suggest that a graduated measure is useful for assessing the degree of uncertainty of the observers and subtle effects of different factors upon the judgment of patient's pain. © 2009 Springer Science+Business Media, LLC.
Evidence evaluation is a crucial process in many human activities, spanning from medical diagnosis to impression formation. The present experiments investigated which, if any, normative model best conforms to people?s intuition about the value of the obtained evidence. Psychologists, epistemologists, and philosophers of science have proposed several models to account for people?s intuition about the utility of the obtained evidence with respect either to a focal hypothesis or to a constellation of hypotheses. We pitted against each other the so called optimal-experimental-design models (i.e., Bayesian diagnosticity, log10 diagnosticity, information gain, Kullback-Leibler distance, probability gain, and impact) and measures L and Z to compare their ability to describe humans? intuition about the value of the obtained evidence. Participants received words-and-numbers scenarios concerning two hypotheses and binary features. They were asked to evaluate the utility of ?yes? and ?no? answers to questions about some features possessed in different proportions (i.e., the likelihoods) by two types of extraterrestrial creatures (corresponding to two mutually exclusive and exhaustive hypotheses). Participants evaluated either how an answer was helpful or how an answer decreased/increased their beliefs with respect either to a single hypothesis or to both hypotheses. We fitted mixed-effects models and we used the Akaike information criterion (AIC) and the Bayesian information criterion (BIC) values to compare the competing models of the value of the obtained evidence. Overall, the experiments showed that measure Z was the best-fitting model of participants? judgments of the value of obtained answers. We discussed the implications for the human hypothesis-evaluation process.
Sacchi S, Rusconi P, Russo S, Bettiga R, Cherubini P (2012) New knowledge for old credences: asymmetric information search about in-group and out-group members., Br J Soc Psychol 51 (4) pp. 606-625
Three experiments examined how people gather information on in-group and out-group members. Previous studies have revealed that category-based expectancies bias the hypothesis-testing process towards confirmation through the use of asymmetric-confirming questions (which are queries where the replies supporting the prior expectancies are more informative than those falsifying them). However, to date there is no empirical investigation of the use of such a question-asking strategy in an intergroup context. In the present studies, participants were asked to produce (Study 1) or to choose (Studies 2 and 3) questions in order to investigate the presence of various traits in an in-group or an out-group member. Traits were manipulated by valence and typicality. The results revealed that category-based expectancies do not always lead to asymmetric-confirming testing: whereas participants tended to ask questions that confirmed positive in-group and negative out-group stereotypical attributes, they used a more symmetric strategy when testing for the presence of negative in-group or positive out-group traits. Moreover, Study 3 also revealed a moderation effect of in-group identification. The findings point to the role played by motivational factors associated with preserving a positive social identity. Possible consequences of these hypothesis-testing processes in preserving a positive social identity for intergroup relations are discussed.
Riva P, Rusconi P, Montali L, Cherubini P (2011) The influence of anchoring on pain judgment, Journal of Pain and Symptom Management 42 (2) pp. 265-277
Context: Research on decision making suggests that a wide range of spontaneous processes may influence medical judgment. Objectives: We considered an easily accessible strategy, anchoring and insufficient adjustment, which might contribute to health care professionals' miscalibration of patients' pain. Methods: A sample (n = 423) of physicians, nurses, medical students, and nursing students participated in a computerized task that showed 16 vignettes featuring fictitious patients reporting headache. In the experimental condition, participants were asked to evaluate the severity of the patient's pain before and after knowing the patient's rating. In the control condition, participants were shown all information about the patient at the same time and were required to make judgments in a single stage. Results: When participants could express an initial impression before knowing the patient's rating, they fully anchored to their initial impressions in almost half of the responses. Moreover, even among those who revised their initial impression, the extent of the revision was often insufficient. Greater anchoring was associated with patients' ratings that were higher than the participants' initial impression. Finally, we provided evidence that anchoring increased pain miscalibration. We discuss our findings in terms of their contribution to the understanding of the cognitive processes involved in pain assessment. Conclusion: When estimating patients' pain intensity, observers are driven by anchoring, a rule of thumb that might have pernicious consequences in terms of unwarranted overreliance on initial impressions and insufficient revision in light of relevant disconfirming evidence. Taking this heuristic into account might foster accurate pain assessment and treatment. © 2011 U.S. Cancer Pain Relief Committee. Published by Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
This study investigates the influence of verbal and
non-verbal cues on people?s credibility judgments of fake Twitter
profiles generated by an information hiding mobile app solely for
transmitting secret messages. We tested the hypotheses that the
trustworthiness conveyed by the profile picture, morality-related
trait adjectives included in the profile summary and the profile
owner?s gender would increase people?s credibility judgments of
those fake Twitter profiles. 24 participants assessed 16 fake
profiles on their credibility. They also expressed their confidence
in their credibility judgements and they answered an open-ended
question on which parts of the profile influenced their credibility
judgements. The results showed that overall participants did not
trust the Twitter profiles. Furthermore, confidence judgements
were higher when profiles included competence-related traits in
the profile summaries. Verbal rather than non-verbal cues had
thus more influence on participants? judgements. The openended
responses revealed a large reliance on the content of the
profile, which is what the mobile app relies on. We discussed
these findings in light of the relative lack of credibility of the
profiles generated by the mobile app. The new insights can help
improve designs of systems depending on automated social media
accounts and will provide useful clues about other applications
where cognitive computing plays a role.
Cherubini P, Rusconi P, Russo S, Crippa F (2013) Missing the dog that failed to bark in the nighttime: On the overestimation of occurrences over non-occurrences in hypothesis testing, Psychological Research 77 (3) pp. 348-370
In three studies, we investigated whether and to what extent the evaluation of two mutually exclusive hypotheses is affected by a feature-positive effect, wherein present clues are weighted more than absent clues. Participants (N = 126) were presented with abstract problems concerning the most likely provenance of a card that was drawn from one of two decks. We factored the correct response (the hypothesis favored by the consideration of all clues) and the ratio of present-to-absent features in each set of observations. Furthermore, across the studies, we manipulated the presentation format of the features' probabilities by providing the probability distributions of occurrences (Study 1), non-occurrences (Study 3) or both (Study 2). In all studies, both participant preference and accuracy were mostly determined by an over-reliance on present features. Moreover, across participants, both confidence in the responses and the informativeness of the present clues correlated positively with the number of responses given in line with an exclusive consideration of present features. These results were mostly independent of both the rarity of the absent clues and the presentation format. We concluded that the feature-positive effect influences hypothesis evaluation, and we discussed the implications for confirmation bias. © 2012 Springer-Verlag.
Three studies using abstract materials tested possible moderators of the feature-positive effect in hypothesis evaluation whereby people use the presence of features more than their absence to judge which of 2 competing hypotheses is more likely. Drawing on a distinction made in visual perception research, we tested whether the feature-positive effect emerges both when using nonsubstitutive features, which can be removed without replacement by other features, and substitutive features, the absence of which implies the presence of other features (e.g., the colour red, the absence of which entails the presence of another colour). Furthermore, we tested whether presenting to participants both the clue occurrence probabilities (which are needed to consider clue presence) and their complements (which are needed to gauge the impact of the absent clues) decreased the featurepositive effect. The results showed that regardless of the type of feature (i.e., nonsubstitutive vs. substitutive), participants provided more responses consistent with an evaluation of the subset of present clues compared to all other kinds of responses. However, the use of substitutive features combined with an explicit presentation format of probabilistic information had a debiasing effect. Furthermore, the use of substitutive features negated participant sensitivity to the rarity of clues, whereby the feature-positive effect decreased when there was one absent clue and two present clues for problems in which the exclusive consideration of the presence of features did not suggest the correct response. © 2012 Canadian Psychological Association.
Trait inference in person perception is based on observers' implicit assumptions about the
relations between trait adjectives (e.g., fair) and the either consistent or inconsistent behaviors
(e.g., having double standards) that an actor can manifest. This article presents new
empirical data and theoretical interpretations on people' behavioral expectations, that is,
people's perceived trait-behavior relations along the morality (versus competence) dimension.
We specifically address the issue of the moderate levels of both traits and behaviors
almost neglected by prior research by using a measure of the perceived general frequency
of behaviors. A preliminary study identifies a set of competence- and morality-related traits
and a subset of traits balanced for valence. Studies 1±2 show that moral target persons are
associated with greater behavioral flexibility than immoral ones where abstract categories of
behaviors are concerned. For example, participants judge it more likely that a fair person
would behave unfairly than an unfair person would behave fairly. Study 3 replicates the
results of the first 2 studies using concrete categories of behaviors (e.g., telling the truth/
omitting some information). Study 4 shows that the positive asymmetry in morality-related
trait-behavior relations holds for both North-American and European (i.e., Italian) individuals.
A small-scale meta-analysis confirms the existence of a positive asymmetry in traitbehavior
relations along both morality and competence dimensions for moderate levels of
both traits and behaviors. We discuss these findings in relation to prior models and results
on trait-behavior relations and we advance a motivational explanation based on selfprotection.
Human cognitive modeling techniques and related software tools have been widely used by researchers and practitioners to evalu- ate the e ectiveness of user interface (UI) designs and related human performance. However, they are rarely used in the cyber security eld despite the fact that human factors have been recognized as a key ele- ment for cyber security systems. For a cyber security system involving a relatively complicated UI, it could be di cult to build a cognitive model that accurately captures the di erent cognitive tasks involved in all user interactions. Using a moderately complicated user authentication system as an example system and CogTool as a typical cognitive modeling tool, this paper aims to provide insights into the use of eye-tracking data for facilitating human cognitive modeling of cognitive tasks more e ectively and accurately.We used visual scan paths extracted from an eye-tracking user study to facilitate the design of cognitive modeling tasks. This al- lowed us to reproduce some insecure human behavioral patterns observed in some previous lab-based user studies on the same system, and more importantly, we also found some unexpected new results about human behavior. The comparison between human cognitive models with and without eye-tracking data suggests that eye-tracking data can provide useful information to facilitate the process of human cognitive modeling as well as to achieve a better understanding of security-related human behaviors. In addition, our results demonstrated that cyber security re- search can bene t from a combination of eye-tracking and cognitive mod- eling to study human behavior related security problems.
Previous studies have indicated that high status people are prone to use leading questions during interpersonal interaction. The present study (N = 254) aimed to investigate if asymmetry between high and low status individuals is likely to bias the social hypothesis testing toward asymmetric questions, namely queries for which the "yes" and the "no" answers are not equally diagnostic. To this purpose, after manipulating their status (supervisor vs. subordinate), participants were asked to choose questions to investigate the presence of attributes (positive or negative) in a social target. The results showed that higher status individuals are more likely to adopt the asymmetric confirming strategy during the social hypothesis-testing than lower status individuals. The potential application of this research is discussed.
The Attentional Blink (AB) is a temporary deficit for a second target (T2) when that target
appears after a first target (T1). Although sophisticated models have been developed to
explain the substantial AB literature in isolation, the current study considers how the AB
relates to perceptual dynamics more broadly. We show that the time-course of the AB is
closely related to the time course of the transition from positive to negative repetition priming
effects in perceptual identification. Many AB tasks involve a switch between a T1 defined in
one manner and a T2 defined in a different manner. Other AB tasks are non-switching, with
all targets belonging to the same well-known category (e.g., letter targets versus number
distractors) or sharing the same perceptual feature. We propose that these non-switching AB
tasks reflect perceptual habituation for the target-defining attribute; thus, a ?perceptual wink?,
with perception of one attribute (target identity) undisturbed while perception of another
(target detection) is impaired. On this account, the immediate benefit following T1 (lag-1
sparing) reflects positive repetition priming and the subsequent deficit (the blink) reflects
negative repetition priming for the realization that a target occurred. In developing the
perceptual wink model, we extended the nROUSE model of perceptual priming to explain the
results of two new experiments combining the AB and identity repetitions. This establishes
important connections between non-switching AB tasks and perceptual dynamics.
Despite all the information about the risks, many people still smoke. Several studies
investigated risk perceptions in smokers. The adequate perceptions of the risks from smoking
is particularly important and this study investigated the risk perception of young smokers vs
non-smokers by a new time-estimation task in which we required participants (smokers and
non-smokers) to estimate the onset time of smoking-related conditions in an average young
smoker. The findings supported our main hypothesis that smokers, compared to non-smokers,
postponed the onset of both mild and severe smoking-related conditions. The results also
revealed that the onset time estimates for mild conditions given by both smokers and nonsmokers
were associated with their self-perceptions of risk and level of fear of developing
smoking-related conditions. The findings cast light on smokers? distorted temporal perception
of the health-damaging consequences of smoking. Implications for the adequacy of risk
perception in smokers are discussed.