Tuesday, October 26, 2010: 1:00 PM
Grand Ballroom East (Sheraton Centre Toronto Hotel)
* Candidate for the Lee B. Lusted Student Prize Competition
Olga Kostopoulou, PhD, MSc, BA and Alan Schwartz, PhD
FEELING WE'RE WRONG: INTUITIVE BIAS DETECTION DURING DECISION-MAKING
Human thinking is often biased by heuristic intuitions. Popular theories have argued that people overrely on intuitive thinking and fail to engage in more demanding logical reasoning. However, the nature of the intuitive bias and logical thinking failure are poorly understood. It is not clear whether the bias results from a failure to detect that the heuristic intuitions conflict with more logical considerations or from a failure to discard and inhibit these tempting heuristics. The exact locus of the intuitive bias has far-stretching consequences for the debate on human rationality. If people were at least to detect the conflict, this would imply that they are no mere illogical thinkers but are aware that their response is not fully warranted. Specifying the exact bias locus is also paramount for the development of more effective intervention programs to prevent biased thinking. However, the field lacks clear data to settle this debate. In my research I am addressing this fundamental problem with an interdisciplinary approach that combines reasoning research with insights from the memory and cognitive control field. By relying on a combination of experimental, developmental, and neuroscientific methods I managed to start characterizing the conflict detection and inhibition mechanisms during thinking. This unique multi-faceted approach has demonstrated that conflict detection during thinking is remarkably flawless. Although people fail to inhibit tempting heuristics, they at least implicitly detect that their answer is not warranted. This implies that people are far more logical than the widespread bias suggests and provides new insights on the alleged human irrationality.
INSTINCT VS REASON: HOW METACOGNITIVE EXPERIENCES CONTROL ANALYTIC THINKING
Often when making decisions, one or more of the potential choices is suggested by automatic, fast acting heuristic processes. Advertisers, for example, rely on a sense of familiarity to increase the appeal of their products. Even complex judgments made by experts can be delivered by heuristic processes. These initial, intuitive judgments can, in theory, be overturned by recourse to more reasoned analysis. However, as the extensive heuristics and biases literature demonstrates, reasoners often give responses that are consistent with the initial intuition, even though this leads them to neglect relevant principles of probability and logic. This phenomenon motivates Dual Process Theories of reasoning, which posit that automatic Type 1 processes give rise to a highly contextualised representation of the problem and attendant judgments that may or may not be analysed extensively by more deliberate, decontextualised Type 2 processes. A critical, but unanswered question concerns the issue of monitoring and control: When do reasoners rely on the first, intuitive output and when do they engage more effortful thinking? In this talk, I will present data to support the hypothesis that the compellingness of these intuitions can be attributed to a second-order metacognitive judgment, which I will call the Feeling of Rightness. In other words, the initial intuition has two distinct aspects: the content of the choice delivered to working memory and a judgment about how right that decision feels. It is this latter judgment that determines the probability that more deliberate, analytic processes are engaged.
INTUITION IN DECISION MAKING - POTENTIAL AND SHORTCOMINGS
I claim that intuition is capable of quickly processing multiple pieces of information without noticeable cognitive effort. I advocate a component view stating that intuitive processes in judgment and decision making are responsible for information integration and preference formation. Analytic thinking mainly guides search, generation and change of information. I present empirical evidence corroborating my notion of intuition. Specifically, I show that integration of information and formation of preferences functions without cognitive control and is unconstrained by the amount of encoded information and cognitive capacity. I close with discussing conditions under which intuition will increase or decrease decision accuracy.