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Cognitive Psychology

Cognitive Psychology

  • Personal change and the continuity of the self
    Publication date: March 2017
    Source:Cognitive Psychology, Volume 93

    Author(s): Sarah Molouki, Daniel M. Bartels

    Five studies explore how anticipating different types of personal change affects people’s perceptions of their own self-continuity. The studies find that improvements are seen as less disruptive to personal continuity than worsening or unspecified change, although this difference varies in magnitude based on the type of feature being considered. Also, people’s expectations and desires matter. For example, a negative change is highly disruptive to perceived continuity when people expect improvement and less disruptive when people expect to worsen. The finding that some types of change are consistent with perceptions of self-continuity suggests that the self-concept may include beliefs about personal development.





  • Learning in settings with partial feedback and the wavy recency effect of rare events
    Publication date: March 2017
    Source:Cognitive Psychology, Volume 93

    Author(s): Ori Plonsky, Ido Erev

    Analyses of human learning reveal a discrepancy between the long- and the short-term effects of outcomes on subsequent choice. The long-term effect is simple: favorable outcomes increase the choice rate of an alternative whereas unfavorable outcomes decrease it. The short-term effects are more complex. Favorable outcomes can decrease the choice rate of the best option. This pattern violates the positive recency assumption that underlies the popular models of learning. The current research tries to clarify the implications of these results. Analysis of wide sets of learning experiments shows that rare positive outcomes have a wavy recency effect. The probability of risky choice after a successful outcome from risk-taking at trial t is initially (at t +1) relatively high, falls to a minimum at t +2, then increases for about 15 trials, and then decreases again. Rare negative outcomes trigger a wavy reaction when the feedback is complete, but not under partial feedback. The difference between the effects of rare positive and rare negative outcomes and between full and partial feedback settings can be described as a reflection of an interaction of an effort to discover patterns with two other features of human learning: surprise-triggers-change and the hot stove effect. A similarity-based descriptive model is shown to capture well all these interacting phenomena. In addition, the model outperforms the leading models in capturing the outcomes of data used in the 2010 Technion Prediction Tournament.





  • How the twain can meet: Prospect theory and models of heuristics in risky choice
    Publication date: March 2017
    Source:Cognitive Psychology, Volume 93

    Author(s): Thorsten Pachur, Renata S. Suter, Ralph Hertwig

    Two influential approaches to modeling choice between risky options are algebraic models (which focus on predicting the overt decisions) and models of heuristics (which are also concerned with capturing the underlying cognitive process). Because they rest on fundamentally different assumptions and algorithms, the two approaches are usually treated as antithetical, or even incommensurable. Drawing on cumulative prospect theory (CPT; Tversky & Kahneman, 1992) as the currently most influential instance of a descriptive algebraic model, we demonstrate how the two modeling traditions can be linked. CPT’s algebraic functions characterize choices in terms of psychophysical (diminishing sensitivity to probabilities and outcomes) as well as psychological (risk aversion and loss aversion) constructs. Models of heuristics characterize choices as rooted in simple information-processing principles such as lexicographic and limited search. In computer simulations, we estimated CPT’s parameters for choices produced by various heuristics. The resulting CPT parameter profiles portray each of the choice-generating heuristics in psychologically meaningful ways—capturing, for instance, differences in how the heuristics process probability information. Furthermore, CPT parameters can reflect a key property of many heuristics, lexicographic search, and track the environment-dependent behavior of heuristics. Finally, we show, both in an empirical and a model recovery study, how CPT parameter profiles can be used to detect the operation of heuristics. We also address the limits of CPT’s ability to capture choices produced by heuristics. Our results highlight an untapped potential of CPT as a measurement tool to characterize the information processing underlying risky choice.





  • Editorial Board
    Publication date: February 2017
    Source:Cognitive Psychology, Volume 92









  • Intuitive biological thought: Developmental changes and effects of biology education in late adolescence
    Publication date: February 2017
    Source:Cognitive Psychology, Volume 92

    Author(s): John D. Coley, Melanie Arenson, Yian Xu, Kimberly D. Tanner

    A large body of cognitive research has shown that people intuitively and effortlessly reason about the biological world in complex and systematic ways. We addressed two questions about the nature of intuitive biological reasoning: How does intuitive biological thinking change during adolescence and early adulthood? How does increasing biology education influence intuitive biological thinking? To do so, we developed a battery of measures to systematically test three components of intuitive biological thought: anthropocentric thinking, teleological thinking and essentialist thinking, and tested 8th graders and university students (both biology majors, and non-biology majors). Results reveal clear evidence of persistent intuitive reasoning among all populations studied, consistent but surprisingly small differences between 8th graders and college students on measures of intuitive biological thought, and consistent but again surprisingly small influence of increasing biology education on intuitive biological reasoning. Results speak to the persistence of intuitive reasoning, the importance of taking intuitive knowledge into account in science classrooms, and the necessity of interdisciplinary research to advance biology education. Further studies are necessary to investigate how cultural context and continued acquisition of expertise impact intuitive biology thinking.





  • To infinity and beyond: Children generalize the successor function to all possible numbers years after learning to count
    Publication date: February 2017
    Source:Cognitive Psychology, Volume 92

    Author(s): Pierina Cheung, Miriam Rubenson, David Barner

    Recent accounts of number word learning posit that when children learn to accurately count sets (i.e., become “cardinal principle” or “CP” knowers), they have a conceptual insight about how the count list implements the successor function – i.e., that every natural number n has a successor defined as n +1 (Carey, 2004, 2009; Sarnecka & Carey, 2008). However, recent studies suggest that knowledge of the successor function emerges sometime after children learn to accurately count, though it remains unknown when this occurs, and what causes this developmental transition. We tested knowledge of the successor function in 100 children aged 4 through 7 and asked how age and counting ability are related to: (1) children’s ability to infer the successors of all numbers in their count list and (2) knowledge that all numbers have a successor. We found that children do not acquire these two facets of the successor function until they are about 5½ or 6years of age – roughly 2years after they learn to accurately count sets and become CP-knowers. These findings show that acquisition of the successor function is highly protracted, providing the strongest evidence yet that it cannot drive the cardinal principle induction. We suggest that counting experience, as well as knowledge of recursive counting structures, may instead drive the learning of the successor function.





  • Transitional probabilities count more than frequency, but might not be used for memorization
    Publication date: February 2017
    Source:Cognitive Psychology, Volume 92

    Author(s): Ansgar D. Endress, Alan Langus

    Learners often need to extract recurring items from continuous sequences, in both vision and audition. The best-known example is probably found in word-learning, where listeners have to determine where words start and end in fluent speech. This could be achieved through universal and experience-independent statistical mechanisms, for example by relying on Transitional Probabilities (TPs). Further, these mechanisms might allow learners to store items in memory. However, previous investigations have yielded conflicting evidence as to whether a sensitivity to TPs is diagnostic of the memorization of recurring items. Here, we address this issue in the visual modality. Participants were familiarized with a continuous sequence of visual items (i.e., arbitrary or everyday symbols), and then had to choose between (i) high-TP items that appeared in the sequence, (ii) high-TP items that did not appear in the sequence, and (iii) low-TP items that appeared in the sequence. Items matched in TPs but differing in (chunk) frequency were much harder to discriminate than items differing in TPs (with no significant sensitivity to chunk frequency), and learners preferred unattested high-TP items over attested low-TP items. Contrary to previous claims, these results cannot be explained on the basis of the similarity of the test items. Learners thus weigh within-item TPs higher than the frequency of the chunks, even when the TP differences are relatively subtle. We argue that these results are problematic for distributional clustering mechanisms that analyze continuous sequences, and provide supporting computational results. We suggest that the role of TPs might not be to memorize items per se, but rather to prepare learners to memorize recurring items once they are presented in subsequent learning situations with richer cues.





  • Models that allow us to perceive the world more accurately also allow us to remember past events more accurately via differentiation
    Publication date: February 2017
    Source:Cognitive Psychology, Volume 92

    Author(s): Aslı Kılıç, Amy H. Criss, Kenneth J. Malmberg, Richard M. Shiffrin

    Differentiation is a theory that originally emerged from the perception literature and proposes that with experience, the representation of stimuli becomes more distinct from or less similar to the representation of other stimuli. In recent years, the role of differentiation has played a critical role in models of memory. Differentiation mechanisms have been implemented in episodic memory models by assuming that information about new experiences with a stimulus in a particular context accumulates in a single memory trace and these updated memory traces become more distinct from the representations of other stimuli. A key implication of such models is that well encoded events are less confusable with other events. This prediction is particularly relevant for two important phenomena. One is the role of encoding strength on memory. The strength based mirror effect is the finding of higher hit rates and lower false alarm rates for a list composed of all strongly encoded items compared to a list composed of all weakly encoded items. The other is output interference, the finding that accuracy decreases across a series of test trials. Results from four experiments show a tight coupling between these two empirical phenomena such that strongly encoded target items are less prone to interference. By proposing a process model and evaluating the predictions of the model, we show how a single theoretical principle, differentiation, provides a unified explanation for these effects.





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