An annotated collection of more than 5000 links to resources and ideas for the teaching of social psychology and related courses organized by topic





Attitudes & Behavior

Attraction & Relationships

Conflict & Peacemaking


Genes, Gender, & Culture

Group Influence





Psychology in the Courtroom

Social Beliefs & Judgments

The Self






























Social Beliefs and Judgments


Activities and Exercises



Multimedia Resources (audio, video)

Topic Resources


Class Assignments

Articles, Books, and Book Chapters

= new link as of January 1, 2017

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Activities and Exercises

 The influence of morality on the attribution of blame

Schemas - excellent, simple way to introduce the concept of schema

Hindsight bias - an interactive online exercise

Sense of smell provides social information - Nathan DeWall discusses the research and provides a few accompanying activities.

Can we make some decisions better unconsciously? - Cindi May and Gil Einstein review a Current Directions article that looks at this question, and they suggest ways to engage your students in this query.

How powerful/useful is unconscious thought - [added 8/18/15]

Moral judgments - [added 8/18/15]

Self-serving bias - Dana Dunn describes a brief activity he uses in his social psychology class. [added 8/18/15]

Human intuition versus empirical reasoning - [added 8/17/15]

Right-wing attitudes - Myers and DeWall at work again bringing us some good activities related to a Current Directions article [added 8/17/15]

Intuition: Its powers and perils - DeWall and Myers share a number of good examples of such intuitive thinking and describe how you can use them in class.  I particularly like the home-field advantage chart that I will use in class. [added 8/17/15]

Interpreting an athlete's body language - Can you tell if an athlete is winning or losing from his/her body language?  Can your students?  This article presents research on the topic.  It includes the original video stimulus materials that you can use in your class.  Each section of the athletes' nonverbal behavior on the video begins with a label ranging from "far behind" to "far ahead."  You can prevent your students from seeing those labels (e.g., have them put their heads down), and then ask them to view that set of behaviors. Ask them how they think the athletes were doing.  The article includes the videos from table tennis players, handball players, and basketball players.  So, alternatively, you could cue up each of the three videos at the start of a different set of behaviors (i.e., far ahead for one sport, draw for another, and close behind for a third) and then show them one at a time.  Unleash their unconscious minds! [added 8/12/15]

Why smart people make not-so-smart judgments - Sponsored by DeWall and Myers -- Were you the victim of the myside bias?  Suffering from dysrationalia?  Call DeWall and Myers! [added 8/12/15]

Making accurate interpersonal judgments with "zero acquaintance" - That means having never met a person.  A fun activity using reality TV.  You may have to explain what that is to your students.  Oh wait, the other way around. [added 8/12/15]

Priming and "reading students' minds" - from the Teaching of Psych Idea Exchange [added 3/3/14]

False consensus effect - [added 9/4/13]

Confirmation bias - [added 9/4/13]

Ingroup/outgroup bias - Years ago I posted an exercise I use in my social psych class to illustrate how easy it is to form an ingroup and negative beliefs about an outgroup. I see that Fili Feldman adapted that exercise here with a nice handout to use with it. [added 9/4/13]

Priming exercise - This interesting class activity could be adapted for a variety of topics. [added 9/4/13]

Beyond the Purchase - Here's an intriguing new website developed by a few psychologists: "Our basic message is that at you can take short surveys and quizzes to receive personalized feedback about your spending habits, happiness, and values...Our goal at Beyond The Purchase is to: (1) educate people about their spending habits, what impacts their financial decisions, and the costs and benefits of specific consumer choices (i.e., introducing the public to consumer research and the psychology of money). People can learn about how they spend their money and the psychological variables (e.g., their development, personality, motivation, values, beliefs, forecasts, and community) that influence these choices. (2) disseminate scientific knowledge about how and why people spend their money in different ways (i.e., contributing to consumer psychology). The results we publish from our website wil expand our scientific knowledge about the impact of psychological variables (e.g., their development, personality, motivation, values, beliefs, forecasts, and community) on financial choices... When I have introduced our website to instructors I have told people that it makes a great teaching tool for a few discussion points: (1) how simple, yet elusive, psychological constructs like happiness are measured, (2) how surveys are constructed and validated in psychology, (3) the pros and cons of sampling over the internet as well as the pros and cons of sampling when the participants are opt-in only, (4) and the possible cost-benefit ratio of providing good feedback while simultaneously (and quite possibly) priming people before they take specific surveys." [added 6/11/12]

Language and stereotyping - "The authors describe a demonstration of stereotype use in everyday language that focuses on common phrases reflecting stereotypic beliefs about ethnic groups or nationalities. The exercise encourages students’ discussion of stereotype use. Students read 13 common phrases from the English language and stated whether they had used each phrase and whether the meaning of the phrase is positive or negative. Evaluations of the exercise showed that it is effective for increasing awareness of stereotype usein everyday language. The authors provide suggested topics for class discussion." Some of the phrases include "Chinese fire drill," "Dutch treat," "Excuse my French," and "Indian giver." [added 6/10/12]

Framing the epidemic - This is an online activity in which one can participate in scenarios adapted from Kahneman and Tversky's decision-making research. [added 4/2/11]

The Monty Hall problem - Here's another online demo where students can play the game and keep track of the results. [added 12/4/10]

Monty Hall dilemma - interactive site where students can experience the dilemma and have it explained [added 3/23/04]

Making attributions - The creator of this activity misrepresents the fundamental attribution error, but he does provide some interesting scenarios that can be used to talk about types of attributions we make as well as alternative explanations for behavior. H/T Marianne Miserandino! [added 6/19/10]

Demonstrating priming - Here is a conversation that took place in the site Newsletter describing some possible activities to demonstrate unconscious priming. Nora Murphy asked: I have a request for the request line. I was wondering about how others teach about priming, particularly in their Intro classes. In the past, I have used the example of providing the students with a list of words related to tides (without the actual word "tide") and then having them write down what detergent they use (after filler tasks). The example always works - students overwhelmingly report "Tide." However, a lot of the students refuse to acknowledge the priming effect, arguing that Tide is the most common detergent used. I get similar reactions to other priming studies (e.g., the Bargh et al. 1996 study on priming older adult stereotypes, and then participants walking more slowly to the elevator). Students just cannot seem to grasp that priming was the mechanism that caused the effect. I'd be curious to know about how others teach this concept and particularly about any in-class demonstrations.

Larry White suggests that Nora include a control group who was not primed with tide-related words. Similarly, Diane Sunar suggests that half the class receive one type of prime and the other half receive a different type of prime. Then you could compare the results. However, in both cases, the priming words could no longer be presented aurally. But it could still work. Half the class could be given a list of tide-related words on a sheet of paper initially handed to them face down. The other half would get a different list. (For example, in the original DRM false memory studies, one list included bed, rest, awake, tired, dream, wake, snooze, blanket, doze, slumber, snore, nap, peace, yawn, and drowsy. A large % of participants falsely reported that the word "sleep" was in the list.) Either immediately or after a filler task, students could be asked two questions: 1) Was the word "sleep" in the list of words you just read? and 2) What detergent do you use? Then reveal the two lists and find out how students in each group answered the two questions. Actually, Question 1 will probably work better if you also pick a couple of words on the "sleep" list and a couple of non-sleep-related words that were not on the list. In other words, ask them whether or not the following five words were on their list, and then ask them what detergent they use.

Or, you could spread the demo out over the term, doing the second part when you are ready to talk about priming. I just love the "clean spirit" priming studies in which a below-threshold cleaning smell in a room primed participants to give more cleaning-related responses. Earlier in the term you could have students perform the word completion task in Experiment 1 of the cleaning study. Then, later in the term, after spraying a faint cleaning smell in the room before students arrive(!), repeat the word completion task. The differences in the above study were quite large between the experimental and control conditions, so you might find such an effect. Or, you can try the task in Experiment 2. Or, you can bring and hide a freshly baked plate of chocolate chip cookies into class the second day and see if they respond differently to hunger-related questions or requests than they did to the same questions/requests earlier in the semester. [added 3/6/10]

Eyewitness memory tests - two good eyewitness video activities that you can easily conduct in class [added 3/6/10]

False memories and schemas - Here is a link to a video by Chuck Schallhorn describing how he uses the demonstration of false memory adapted from Drew Appleby. [added 2/6/10]

Decision-making games - The first link takes you to some online studies that also can be used as out-of-class activities. Here is a link to the Decision Science News website from whence these come. [added 6/23/09]

Self-serving bias or fundamental attribution error? - I use an example similar to the one here, but I think it is more appropriately illustrating the fundamental attribution error as it is distinguishing between situational and dispositional causes. This is the kind of example that often confuses students because it contains elements of both. It takes some work to help students distinguish between the two attribution errors.
[added 6/23/09]

Availability heuristic - Several activities related to the availability heuristic were shared on the TIPS (Teaching in the Psychological Sciences) listserv. Annette Kujawski Taylor described the following demo she uses: "Yes, I got this one from an old human memory text book that is no longer in print (Zechmeister and Nyberg) but it still works great. Read the names of 20 oscar or emmy winning actors (female) from the 1930s/1940s. You can find the names online. Then read the names of 18 oscar or emmy winning actors (male) from the last 10 years. Then ask if you read more men's or women's names. Most will reply more men's names. The women's names are more obscure and less likely to be encoded as they try to recall which they heard more of. (Of course you can do it opposite as well as far as gender names go.)"


A variation of this that I have done is to read the students a list of names at the beginning of class. The list contains male and female names. There are a few more male names on the list. But just about all the female names are famous ones while none of the male names is. So, when I get to the heuristic later in the class period and ask them whether there were more males or females on the list of names I read to them earlier, they usually believe there were more female names because those are more available. However, sometimes by the time I get to this little demo my students have figured out that I am a tricky social psychologist and they guess that there were more males. Even though they may have "spoiled" my demo, they at least can explain why they guessed what they did and why the more common response is "females." Also, even if they have guessed that there were more males on the list, if I asked them to write down all the names they can remember they see that female names are much more available.


Others suggested using the classic example of having students guess whether there are more words in the English language beginning with the letter "k" or with "k" as the third letter. I had always heard that there were two or three times as many words with "k" as the third letter. However, some on the list questioned whether this was true or not. Jim Clark did some further investigation of this question and came up with the following:


"Wikipedia attributes this example of the availability heuristic to Stuart Sutherland. R does appear to work as stated in Wikipedia and again attributed to Sutherland.

R in first position 2386
R in third position 4247

Other on-line sources attribute the 3:1 ratio to Tversky & Kahnemann. Following up on that lead, brings us to Tversky & Kahnemann. There, the choice of consonants (K, L, N, R, V) is based on Mayzner & Tresselt's (1965) "extensive word count." All work for the KFR database (i.e., more frequent in position 3 than 1), except for K, although the counts for V are relatively closer than the other letters. An abstract of the Mayzner & Tresselt study indicates that they only considered about 20,000 words from 3 to 7 letters long. Limiting KFR to this length range did not modify the results for K (i.e., K was still more common in position 1).

The same search revealed a 1998 JEP:LMC paper. The authors concluded: "Tversky and Kahneman's (1973) findings on letter frequency judgment have become one of the stock-in-trade examples of a "bias" in the heuristics-and-biases literature. The results of three studies indicate that this chapter in the heuristics-and-biases literature needs to be rewritten."

For a demo, it would seem that L, N, and R are better choices than K or V. From KFR,

L 1490 in position 1 and 2649 in position 3
N 897 in position 1 and 3500 in position 3
R 2386 in position 1 and 4247 in position 3

K 547 in position 1 and 240 in position 3
V 686 in position 1 and 817 in position 3"

I think the next time I use this example I will use the letter "r" instead of the letter "k." [added 4/16/08]


Primacy effect - Here are two demos I use to illustrate the primacy effect. I imagine these originally came from some other sources in my distant and long-forgotten past.
1) I split the class in half, telling one half to look away. Then I show the other half a list of 5 or 6 attributes of a person (warm, honest, intelligent, rude, clumsy) one at a time. I tell them to pick a number from 1-10 to describe how much they think they would like this person from 1 (not at all) to 10 (very much). After the one half has written down a number, I then tell the other half to turn back and look to the front. Then I tell them I am going to have them do the same thing. I grab another stack of sheets with one attribute each listed on them. I then show them the new stack one at a time. The only difference between the two stacks is the order of the attributes. Obviously, the positive traits are first for the first group and the negative ones are first for the second group. The first group sees what the second group receives and realizes I just reversed the order.

2) Then I do the second demo. I read a list of words. All of the words are either "yes" or "no." There are more "no's" on the list, but there are more "yes's" at the beginning of the list.

Then I start with the second demo first, and I ask them if they thought there were more yes's, more no's or the same amount. This demo almost always works. The majority says more yes's. I ask them why. This demo is good for illustrating one cause of the primacy effect -- the diminished attention as the list goes on.

Then I ask the first group to describe what I did in the first demo. After they do I ask each group for its results. I just have them give their numbers out loud and I add them up quickly in my head. Then I divide each total by the number of students in each group and get the average rating. This usually works, but not always. But they still understand the point, and see another possible source of the effect -- maintaining one's initial hypothesis.
[added 4/16/08]

"Teach students about schematic processing" - abstract of an article in an issue of Teaching of Psychology [added 4/4/08]

False memory test - Ken Paller and colleagues have created an online version of the memory test they used in their research. Here is a second link to the demo. [added 12/24/07]

Oppression and privilege - Another interesting talk at the 2007 SPSP pre-teaching conference included a prejudice activity from Dena Samuels, a sociologist at the University of Colorado-Colorado Springs. She reads a fairly long list of prompts to her students for which they are to stand up in class if the prompt applies to them. For example, "if people routinely mispronounce your name ... please stand up." Or, "If you are often expected to attend classes on your religious holidays ... please stand up." Or, "If you have never been followed around in a store ... please stand up." She asks them to explicitly look around the room to see who is standing and who is not each time. That leads into a discussion of oppression in her class (e.g., "How does oppression play out in your life?" and "How did it feel to stand up?"). The complete article describing it will soon appear in the following source:

Samuels, D. (2007). "Connecting to Oppression and Privilege: A Pedagogy for Social Justice." In Scott, Barbara M. and Marcia Texler Segal, (Eds.), Race, Gender, and Class in Sociology: Toward an Inclusive Curriculum, 6th Ed. Washington, DC: American Sociological Association. [added 7/7/07]

Stereotypes of body type - an in-class activity described in this article entitled "Some of my friends are fat, others are thin and some are built like Arnold Schwarzenegger: A body typing exercise that teaches critical thinking" [added 7/5/06]

Spot the fake smile - an online activity from the BBC [added 1/10/06]

Illusory correlations - Excellent PowerPoint demonstration adapted and developed by Marcel Yoder -- You can send students to this link and they can complete the activity, or you can use this as an in-class activity. As Marcel suggests and research has demonstrated, this illusory correlation between distinctive events can also be connected to stereotyping and prejudice. Scott Plous provides a good description of such a link in his overview of prejudice research at the Understanding Prejudice website. [added 1/8/06]

Confirmation bias demonstration - I conduct a briefer version of this activity in my social psych course to also illustrate the overconfidence phenomenon. I have everyone stand up. I tell them they can sit down when they are sure they know the rule of which I am thinking. I give them a couple examples of series of numbers that fit the rule: 1, 5, 9 and 17, 21, 25. At least a third of the class sits down at this point. They're sure! Then I solicit other examples of three-number series and tell them whether or not those series also fit the rule. Eventually, someone says "1,2,3" or "6, 31, 88." I say, "yes, that fits the rule." Some aren't so sure anymore; others are more sure they know the rule. Hardly anyone ever guesses my rule though. The rule I use is any ascending whole numbers. They usually don't think to ask "5, 5.5, 6" or something like that. [added 4/8/05]

Teaching about judgment heuristics - Published in Teaching of Psychology, this article by James Shepperd and Erika Koch demonstrates that only teaching about the errors that heuristics can lead to may be less effective than also illustrating how heuristics can lead to good judgments. [added 3/3/05]

Take a presidential candidate quiz? - Have you seen or taken one of the online quizzes to help you sort out which presidential candidate bests fits your views? This site provides links to four good ones that your students might find interesting to complete and/or analyze. [added 4/5/04]

Mere exposure effect [added 3/31/04]

Hot hand effect - a brief, interactive example of the hot hand effect that students can read about and try out [added 11/17/03]

Recognize emotions accurately? - This interactive activity asks you to match facial expressions with the correct emotional label. After "playing," you are given stats about how often players from a few different cultures correctly matched the expressions with the emotions. Shockwave is required. [added 7/23/03]

The pseudoscience of therapeutic touch - Yes, I know, this activity is written for grades 5-8. But it is a very well-designed activity that could be used by any age to explore pseudoscientific beliefs, placebo effects and more. [added 7/21/03]

Attributions Lab - based on Clary & Tesser, 1983, PSPB - from a Research Methods in Social Cognition course - courtesy of Janet Ruscher

Schema Lab - based on Zadny & Gerard, 1974, JESP - from a Research Methods in Social Cognition course - courtesy of Janet Ruscher

Schema Lab - based on Maass et al., 1989, JPSP - from a Research Methods in Social Cognition course - courtesy of Janet Ruscher

Encoding Lab - based on Wegner et al., 1987, JPSP - from a Research Methods in Social Cognition course - courtesy of Janet Ruscher

Memory Lab - based on Hoffman et al., 1981, JPSP - from a Research Methods in Social Cognition course - courtesy of Janet Ruscher

Social Inference Lab - based on Macrae, 1992, PSPB - from a Research Methods in Social Cognition course - courtesy of Janet Ruscher

Magic trick - interactive trick illustrating how schemas can affect judgment (accompanies Social Psychology, Third Edition by Aronson, Wilson, and Akert)

Evaluate articles - in groups, students answer questions about specific articles on stereotyping and attributions

Fundamental Attribution Error - whole class demonstration of the fundamental attribution error (and how you may not be as smart as they thought you were)

Multimedia Resources (Audio / Video)


"Choosing wrong" - a podcast from This American Life addressing why we often make wrong decisions when the right one is staring us in the face

Nobel laureate Daniel Kahneman interview - (5:27) On NPR, Kahneman "explains why the 'hawkish' point of view so often prevails in times of national conflict." Here is an article written by Kahneman and Jonathan Renshon on the same topic. [added 7/06/07]


Self-disparagement, confirmation bias, ... (3:17) - amusing Saturday Night Live clip that illustrates multiple concepts

The Memory Factory (1:11:05) - A lecture from Elizabeth Loftus -- "Eat your deviled eggs, young man!"  Well, no, not that kind of lecture.

Embodied cognition - (1:32:05) Researcher George Lakoff gives a presentation on this topic. [added 8/18/15]

Self-fulfilling prophecy - (1:29) [added 8/18/15]

"Would you walk past a money tree?" - (5:11) another example of inattentional blindness [added 8/17/15]

The fiction of memory - (17:36) This a good TedTalk from Elizabeth Loftus. [added 8/12/15]

Be more dog - (1:11) The sad, sad stereotyping of cats and dogs -- okay, really just my excuse to show you this video [added 9/4/13]

"Jimmy Kimmel tests the audience's gaydar" - (4:16) [added 8/19/13]

The sin of misattribution - (51:59) Daniel Schachter gives an address at the 2012 APA convention. [added 12/07/12]

Stereotyping of Iowans - (1:51) Amusing video put out during the Iowa caucases, or is that caucasi? Warning: Some strong language. I know, who thought Iowans talked that way? [added 6/25/12]

The study of social myths - (5:16) Interview of Joel Best about his research on the belief that people were often poisoning Halloween candy and other mistaken beliefs about children [added 1/21/12]

Dating and irrationality - (6:01) Dan Ariely discusses decision making in the dating scene. Here - (5:28) is a second video on the topic. [added 1/20/12]

Another change blindness video - (1:37) From Dan Simon's "door" study [added 4/25/11]

Hindsight bias - (4:21) a skit from the comedy show MadTV in which a psychic is taken to task
[added 4/25/11]

Bem on ESP - (2:20) Not surprisingly, Daryl Bem's ESP research has got a lot of attention. The first link is to his appearance on an MSNBC show. Here - (2:14)  is Bem's appearance on The Colbert Report. I like how the MSNBC anchor describes JPSP as a "highly-respected medical journal." [added 4/24/11]

Choice blindness - (3:39) Do you know why you like what you do? We have preferences, but apparently we are not very clear on our reasons. This is cleverly demonstrated in some studies on choice blindness. Here is a link to one of the research articles. Fascinating stuff. An excellent, brief video to show in class. [added 10/3/10]

Change blindness - (1:42) A nice twist on the famous gorilla video, also from Dan Simon -- if too many of your students have already seen the gorilla video or a variation of it, they can still be fooled by this one. [added 7/27/10]

Unconscious priming of ad designers - (6:48) Apparently, Derren Brown has a TV show in the UK in which he illustrates a number of psychological phenomenon. Many of these are available on YouTube and are quite fascinating. In this episode Brown tricks two advertising designers into creating an advertising poster through unconscious priming that is eerily similar to one Brown created ahead of time. [added 1/15/10]

Person swap experiment - (4:48) Here is another fascinating demonstration from Derren Brown that replicates psychological research. See "related videos" at this page to view more Derren Brown episodes. [added 1/15/10]

Cognitive illusions - (17:19) another interesting TED talk from Dan Ariely on visual illusions as a metaphor for some of our irrational thinking [added 7/3/09]

Choice blindness - Video briefly summarizes a very cool study -- article also included [added 7/3/09]

"Why we think it's OK to cheat and steal (sometimes)" - (16:20) Another interesting TED lecture, this time from Dan Ariely continuing his focus on the predictably irrational. [added 7/3/09]

Change blindness or inattentional blindness or... - (5:57) Whatever you call it, this is an excellent clip illustrating a clever study on the topic. [added 5/24/08]

Inattentional blindness - (1:09) Here's a nice variation of the gorilla video example incorporated into an ad. [added 4/16/08]

Vividness effect/availability heuristic - (5:16) A classic and hysterical video from The Daily Show, "Summer of the sharks" [added 3/28/08]

Why too much choice is bad for us - (19:37) an interesting video lecture from Barry Schwartz -- begins with a brief ad [added 11/23/07]

Mindblindness - (3:10) This short video which appears to be about a card trick is actually an interesting demonstration of mindblindness. [added 7/15/07]

"Face to face: The science of reading faces" - (56:08) Watch an interview of Paul Ekman. Transcript is also included. [added 1/16/06]

Lecture by Daniel Kahneman - (40:00) View a lecture entitled, "Maps of Bounded Rationality" given by Daniel Kahneman in 2002. This video is provided in a nice format in which the video is played alongside a script of the speech. You can also just read a transcript of the speech at this site. [added 4/5/04]

Visual illusions related to social judgment - Some interesting videos are made available online from the Visual Cognition Lab at the University of Illinois. Actual videos used in studies of change blindness and other topics. Illustrates some social perception and expectation errors. Quicktime is required. [added 7/23/03]

  • Here is the "Gorillas in our midst" article that describes the research that used some of these videos

Class Assignments


Teaching social categorization - A Teaching of Psychology article: "This article details a multi-modal active learning experience to help students understand elements of social categorization. Each student in a group dynamics course observed two groups in conflict and identified examples of in-group bias, double-standard thinking, out-group homogeneity bias, law of small numbers, group attribution error, ultimate attribution error, and moral exclusion. Students individually wrote papers detailing their observations. The author then carefully structured students' small and large group discussions so students could present and compare their findings orally. Pretest–posttest analyses revealed that students had a more complete and accurate understanding of social categorization after participating in this assignment than they did after merely reading the relevant textbook chapter." [added 1/14/12]


Decision journal - students record decision-related entries for Judgment and Decision-making course - scroll down page to view

Paper Assignments

Applying social cognition - students choose from three films and apply social cognitive concepts to at least three instances in the film - from Kristi Lemm - other movies Kristi has used for this assignment: The Usual Suspects, Lone Star, House of Games, Fight Club, A League of their Own, The Shawshank Redemption, The Sum of All Fears, Ma Vie en Rose, 12 Angry Men, The Hurricane, Contact, About a Boy, Strawberry and Chocolate, Annie Hall, 12 Monkeys, Mystic River, The Fisher King, Minority Report, Howard’s End, Amelie, Talk to Her, Changing Lanes [added 12/13/02]

Heuristics in social cognition - Students provide original examples of six heuristics in Jean Mandernach's course. [added 1/15/06]



Reactance and Absoluteness
When talking of absoluteness, I think of a boxing strategy. I'm sure it translates into other sports as well, but that will be my model. No matter how bad you are hurt, you are supposed to not show it to discourage your opponent. If he should see a weakness forming in you, he thinks he might be able to hang on just long enough to outlast you. This may motivate him to try even harder. If he believes you are not even hurt, he will realize the shape he is in, feel weak and powerless, and not see the point of trying to continue. When it is a sure thing (or perceived sure thing) he is more likely to give up, but if there is a chance that he may win, he will continue or fight even harder to just put himself over the edge in the fight.
[added 12/17/12]


Heider's attribution animations - Fritz Heider and Mary-Ann Simmel created an animation as part of a study (1944) on observers' attributions. Here is an animation similar to what they created. Here is another version of the animation. Here is some explanation and history of these animations. [added 12/12/07]

Michotte demonstrations of causal attribution [added 3/31/04]

Kelley's Model of Attributions
Tonight while I was trying to print my assignment for this class, my printer suddenly stopped working and would not print anything in black ink -- only in color. Therefore, I had to print my assignment in blue ink to turn it in. I was a little worried that this seemed unprofessional to turn in to a college professor. However, I am hoping that you used Kelley's model of attributions. You would then realize that not everyone else turned their assignment in using blue ink so there is not consensus (internal reason); I don't always turn my assignments in using blue ink so it is not consistent (external reason); I only turned in this assignment in blue ink, not all papers in blue ink so it is distinct (external reason). I would hope that you would therefore attribute my blue paper to an external reason -- my printer not working -- instead of to the internal reason that I think blue papers are more exciting.
[added 12/17/12]

Kelley's Theory of Attributions - One of my fellow managers came to me today with a complaint about the performance of one of my subordinates. They had been in a meeting together where Tony (my subordinate) had acted very surly and obstinate about a new process we were trying to implement. John (my peer) made the comment to me that "Tony sure is an uncooperative person. You need to straighten out his attitude." I asked John if Tony was the only one to act in that manner. John replied that most others in the meeting were upset but Tony just happened to be the worst. My next thought was that Tony is usually pretty easy going and has never been upset when we've implemented a new procedure. I asked John whether he'd ever seen Tony get upset at any other meetings and John replied that he hadn't. By using Kelley's model and considering consensus, consistency, and distinctiveness, we concluded that Tony was acting in an uncharacteristic manner and must be upset about the new procedures (an external cause). The saleswoman got really excited the other night when Kevin (19 months old) waved bye-bye and smiled at her. She probably thought that Kevin really liked her and that his behavior was highly distinctive. I know that he is consistent in waving and smiling, and this was not reserved especially for her. I doubt that all babies wave and smile at everyone, so that would not be a consensus.

Katrina residents and the fundamental attribution error - summary of research comparing the very different perceptions of observers versus residents of why the residents stayed or evacuated from Hurricane Katrina
[added 7/5/09]

Fundamental Attribution Error - I let my students know that I regularly exhibit the errors and biases we discuss in class, and none is easier than the FAE. So, I'm in a fast food restaurant when I decide I need to use the bathroom. The door to the single-user bathroom is closed. Is anybody in there? I try the doorknob to find out. It is unlocked, so I proceed to enter. A man, with his back to me, fortunately, is at the urinal. I exit and close the door. Enter the FAE. Why wouldn't he lock the door? What kind of guy is he? I am not just led to negative attributions; I also consider that he is comfortable enough with himself that he is not embarrassed.

You probably know where this is going. As I take my turn in the bathroom I notice that the lock is broken on the door. And as I continue to use the bathroom, another person opens the door only to find it occupied. I wonder what he was thinking? And why didn't I or the previous occupant tell the next person that the lock was broken? [added 9/23/07]

Fundamental Attribution Error - Today, I was stopped at a red light. At one point, I edged my car forward slightly. Immediately after I did this, the man next to me (in his very sporty, turbo, fancy car of some sort) edged forward also. I, at once, thought to myself, "What a jerk, he just doesn't want me to get ahead of him when the light turns green." At this point, I realized that I wasn't taking this man's perspective and that I was making a fundamental attribution error. Perhaps my movement forward made him think the light was green, or perhaps he was just tired of having his foot on the brake like I was.

Unfortunately, our new apartment is not completely sound-proof. My husband and I can easily hear the person above us. We have never met the person but we already have preconceived ideas about who she is, what she does, and what her attitudes are. Last night, she came home very late and right away Bruce starts going on about what a tramp she must be for staying out so late. He constantly makes fundamental attribution errors about this person above us. Since we have never met her, we cannot possibly take her actual perspective of things. However, we could give her the benefit of the doubt. Who knows, maybe her car broke down or she was on vacation and her plane came in late. Although we don't know her and we probably shouldn't think things about her without even meeting her, it's fun to make up ideas about who the person upstairs really is.

Fundamental Attribution Error - I tell my students of how I used to drive into a gas station and get upset at another driver whose car was sitting at the second pump in an aisle while there was no car at the first pump. "What an idiot. Why didn't he/she just pull up to the first pump?" Of course, it usually hit me that perhaps there had been a car at the first pump when this driver pulled in. I no longer jump to the conclusion that the driver is an idiot, so I also use this as an example of how it is possible to control this error. We discuss how difficult that is.

Self-serving Bias

Jantelagen - Eric Hansen, from Sweden, passed along this example: "The Swedes have a phenomenon (or in this case sort of a norm) they call Jantelagen (pronounced Yanta lagen). I think it comes originally from Denmark. I myself am a US citizen who moved to Sweden in 1997, so I do not have Swedish culture as my own, which is probably both an advantage and a disadvantage. I probably notice things my colleagues don't, but don't have the background to understand them as fully they would once I recognize them. Anyway, this Jantelagen, which I believe means Jante's law can be interpreted as a strong norm against extolling one's virtues and achievements.

One of my students once sent me the following "satirical" 10 commandments related to Jantelagen: taken from a source I could probably find. I believe it is a book called En flykting kryssar sitt spor (1933) by Aksel Sandmose.

Below is a direct translation of what they mean, in some cases with my interpretation in parentheses.

Jantelagen (10 satiriska budord) - Jantelagen 10 satirical commandments

1. Du skall icke tro att du är något. -- You (thou) shall not believe that you are something. (You should not believe you are something special)

2. Du skall icke tro, att du är lika god som vi. -- You shall not believe that you're as good as we are.

3. Du shall icke tro, att du är klokare än vi. -- You shall not believe you are wiser than we are.

4. Du skall icke tro, att du är bättre än vi. -- You shall not believe that you're better than we are.

5. Du skall icke tro, att du vet mer än vi. -- You shall not believe that you know more than we do.

6. Du skall icke tro, att du är förmer än vi. -- You shall not believe that you are superior to us.

7. Du skall icke tro, att du duger något till. -- You shall not believe that you're good enough for anything.

8. Du skall icke skratta åt oss. -- You shall not laugh at us.

9. Du skall icke tro, att någon bryr sig om dig. -- You shall not think anyone cares about you. (an interesting aside, there was recently a giant hit song with the chorus nobody cares where you bought your sweater, I know it doesn't translate so well, but the point they were trying to make in the song was that you're not as important as you think).

10. Du skall icke tro, att du kan lära oss något. -- You shall not believe you can teach us anything.

Based on this "law" I am currently running a study in collaboration with a colleague in the States which makes a cross-cultural comparison of the self-serving bias. The idea is that Swedes are less likely to extol their virtues than Americans, unless permitted to do so anonymously. I view it as a type of false modesty, meaning I think Swedes privately think they are better than other people, but are loathe to talk about it publicly. I have some preliminary data that show significant differences in estimates of oneself compared to estimates of the "average other" in Swedes when ratings are made anonymously. In a follow up (being run now) I am investigating what happens when ratings are made publicly." [added 7/5/06]

We had a golf meet yesterday. I played terribly. It was my worst round in like three or four years. Naturally, I was a CLASSIC case study of self-serving bias. I came up with every excuse in the book to explain why I played so poorly. It was raining; it was the first time I ever played that course; I had a couple of bad holes; the list goes on and on. I attributed my failure on a hundred external factors, but none on me. I couldn't understand why I played so poorly, so there must have been some causes. I never play that bad, so I tried to find reasons. Well, there's always tomorrow ... My first experience with writing options in the securities market was a great success. Not only was it profitable, but I managed to sell and buy at the precise high and low points thereby confirming my belief that I was exceptionally good at this. I was soon projecting how my profits would grow over the next few years. The results that followed were not as impressive. A mix of smaller wins and losses did not change my beliefs. There were always explanations that could take me off the hook and place the blame on some external circumstances that which were temporary and unusual. Essentially the small losses were written off as flukes, and the small wins were seen as a direct result of my skill; they would have been even larger had so many things not turned against me. The self serving bias (wanting to see myself as a skilled trader) and the illusion of control (believing all the wins were a result of my good judgement) were at work here. It was not until a substantial one time loss occurred that I began to objectively evaluate my performance. The dissonance between my beliefs and what was occurring became too great to rationalize away.

Impression Formation

Priming - Renee Bator passed along this excellent example: "My son was in kindergarten and his birthday party was two weeks away. My husband and I were trying to decide what type of birthday party to throw for him. We were going for a hike that morning, and we started the hike discussing the pros and cons of different options: pool party at the Y, party at our house, bowling, etc. We continued hiking for some time as I continued to ponder the different options. We came across an abandoned shack with broken glass and beer bottles inside. My husband said, "I bet kids like to party in there." I was horrified!! You couldn't have a birthday party in there!! After several, "What do you means?!" I realized he meant: local high school kids like to 'party' (i.e., drink beer and hang out) in there. I was primed by our discussion and then interpreted his later comment from that perspective." [added 6/18/12]

Primacy Effect - I had an interesting experience with a fellow supervisor yesterday. An employee had recently promoted out of my department into his and it was about time for him to give her a 30-day review. I asked him how she was doing. He said not too well but that he really hadn't expected much from her. This surprised me because she had been a very good worker for me. I asked him why. He said that judging from the size of her personnel file I had passed along to him he was sure he was going to have problems with her performance. I asked if he had read the file. He said no, he hadn't wanted to bias his opinion of her before his first review. I guess the Rosenthal effect is at work here because he had in fact made his "biased" judgment based on file size. If he had taken the time to read through the file he would have seen that it was full of extra training documentation and notes of commendation on work performance. This had been an employee who for me had shown much initiative and continually came up with problem solutions.

Vividness effect - Professional sports, particularly the NFL, have taken quite a hit lately.  But is it a few vivid cases or a systemic problem?  This article cites four cases.  How often do we hear about non-controversial acts off the field? [added 8/17/15]

Vividness Effect/Availability Heuristic - "Baseball is a game of inches." That statement is frequently heard in baseball (and similar statements are often made in other sports). It only seems that way though because we most vividly remember the close calls and close plays. Usually the ball goes several feet or yards foul or over the fence or the runner is safe by several feet. It doesn't sound as good though to say "Baseball is a game of feet." [added 7/21/03]

Vividness Effect/Availability Heuristic - a 3-minute, 30-second clip from The Daily Show on Comedy Central spoofing the Summer of the Shark, how the media overplays the frequency of certain events [added 10/3/02]

Vividness Effect/Availability Heuristic - Had a good guest speaker in this week to talk about quality and customer service. His very first point in describing how to provide memorable service was to provide the customer with a "vivid" example so they always remember and associate your company with that. For instance, I was recently out of town, stopped in a store for a bottle of aspirin; went to the check out counter and found the price was not tagged on the item. The clerk turned to the manager walking by and asked for the price. The manager turned back to me and said, "Please accept this at no charge. This is an administrative management problem and not yours. We should have had it marked and I don't want to hold you up any longer. Sorry for the inconvenience, please come back." Was I stunned! But, as a customer I will always remember my positive experience and that vivid example will override most negatives which might occur.

Vividness Effect/Availability Heuristic - I saw the movie "Witness" last night in which Harrison Ford plays a Philadelphia cop who lives among the Amish for a short period. A strong outgroup bias was evident among the Amish. Some of them didn't accept him because he was an "Englishman." Most likely, they had encountered some other non-Amish people who behaved in a manner that wasn't acceptable to them, and they had these same feelings toward Harrison Ford initially. They had these same feelings about the woman who brought Harrison Ford to live in their community, and there was a lot of gossip about, and hostility toward, the two of them. After the community got to know Harrison Ford as a man rather than an "Englishman," they accepted him. One day Ford went to town with a group of Amish people. He was dressed like the rest of them. The people in town were accustomed to their pacifist ways, so they were quite surprised when Ford got into a fight with some bullies and won. The Amish excused him as being a cousin from Ohio. From then on, I'm sure the Ohio Amish had a bad name in Pennsylvania. This vividness effect would be used to make judgments about the Ohio Amish. Ford was hiding out from the Philadelphia police and didn't want his picture taken. So when a tourist woman insisted on taking his picture, Ford replied, "You take my picture and I'll rip out your brassiere and strangle you with it!" Obviously, the woman didn't take his picture. This unusual behavior (vividness effect) would probably cause the woman to have negative feelings about all Amish people. Ford was not really an Amish,but the woman's perception of reality was that he was. For her, Amish people are probably stereotyped as nasty.

Schemas and Stereotypes

Stereotyping - "Police officer body-slams Black teacher, then tells her Black people have more 'violent tendencies."

Stereotyping - they're all alike

Stereotyping - 14-year-old brought a homemade clock to school to show his teacher. But he was the wrong color.  Could be a bomb.

Crazy = Creative? - If an artist is eccentric then his/her work must be more enjoyable and more valuable.  Crazy = creative? [added 8/12/15]

Stereotype of Arabs/Muslims
Although I'd rather not admit it, I do have a slight prejudice toward Arabs, but not to the extent of pure hatred. It all happened with one vivid experience at the YMCA. I had been warned by a co-worker to keep my eye out for a man with a 6-year-old daughter because he was known to be abusive towards his daughter by making her swim laps in the pool for hours on end without a break. The first time I had laid eyes on this man,who was wearing a turban on his head and sported a small beard, my brain fired off a series of stereotypes. Uh oh, he's a Muslim, which means he's probably dangerous, not friendly, and rude was my initial thought. It didn't even occur to me that this was the man my co-worker warned me about. Rather, it was my stereotype that warned me to stay away because he posed a threat to my physical well-being. From that moment on, I relied on confirming evidence to maintain my stereotype that he was dangerous. Every little thing he did wrong proved to me that he was, in fact, a threat. In fact, one day, when he screamed at me for asking him if he wanted an ID card (he was using his wife's), I actually felt scared he would hit me, especially since I heard it had happened before to a lifeguard. Because of him and recent world events, I developed a slight prejudice towards Arabs. Now, whenever a man who looks like an Arab walks in to use the facility, I try to avoid eye contact and as much interaction as possible due to fear. In fact, apparently I've been told that I've even moved away from the desk whenever I saw him, which I didn't even know I was doing. This example demonstrated several things. First, it illustrated the vividness effect: I never remembered the good behaviors of this man, just the bad ones because they happened to be the most vivid. Second, it showed confirmation bias: I only looked for negative encounters with this man to maintain my stereotypes. Third, it also depicted priming: Encountering this man with his turban and beard triggered negative stereotypes, which resulted in fear and the behavior of slowly walking away. Fourth, the stereotypes I formed were done so in part of automaticity: My brain took in information about this man, but my unconscious processed it and spat out the negative stereotypes I had about Arabs and Muslims.
[added 12/17/12]

Racial stereotypes in sports - Yes, I am required by law to mention "Linsanity" at least once this year. [added 6/18/12]

Stereotypes - Sam Sommers presents an interesting summary and commentary of research finding a negative stereotype about breastfeeding. [added 8/17/11]

Did "cult-like" group commit suicide? - You may have heard this story in the news in which "a group of 13 Salvadoran immigrants missing in southern California amid fears that they planned a cult-like mass suicide have been found alive, unhurt and upset to find they were the subjects of an extensive search." Why was there an assumption that they might be out somewhere committing mass suicide? Is that what we think all "cult-like" groups are capable of? Thinking about? Are we overestimating the few vivid instances in which that has occurred? What makes this group "cult-like" anyway? Some video included. [added 9/25/10]

It's so easy to label/stereotype (preschoolers) - Amusing article from The Onion in which little Timmy Johnson complains that "the 'handful' classification is problematic at best, a gross exaggeration at worst." [added 7/5/09]

Stereotypes - Obama's growing watermelons on the White House lawn -- hey, he didn't know about the racial stereotype!

Stereotyping - Robert Novak says that Barack Obama is not a "stereotype African-American." So, who is, Bob? [added 4/4/08]

Ethnic - Native Americans - Seinfeld Episode: Jerry attempts to suppress stereotypes about Native Americans, but he finds himself using words like "reservation." Contributed by Steve Fein. [added 4/28/02]

Names - I hate the name Marvin. I've always hated the name. It doesn't sound masculine. It sounds like his mother must have hated him. When I hear it, my schema says "spoiled brat." In my mind, there are no good cognitions associated with the name. Since I never knew a Marvin when I was growing up, I don't know why I have such strong feelings about the name. If anyone would have told me that someday I would be married to a Marvin, I would have told them they were off their rocker. But that's exactly what happened. However, I still dislike the name so much, that sometimes my mind refuses to let my mouth say it. I can't tell you how many times I've slipped and called him Norman. I have never dated a Norman, so I don't know why my mind insists on substituting that name, but it does. As you can imagine, my husband fails to see any humor in this. At any rate, my husband is a very kind and generous man. He is not at all like the schema that I continue to associate with his name. In order to maintain a feeling of consistency, and to relieve dissonance regarding the conflict between my attitude and actions, I've convinced myself that my husband is an exception to the rule.

Names - Talk about preconceived notions -- the other night I met one of my friends for a drink that I hadn't seen in a long time so we had to do a lot of catching up. Well, it turns out that my friend is dating a man named Gus. Gus is supposed to be very nice and distinguished looking. The whole time my friend was telling me how great he was all I could do is smile. She finally asked me what was wrong. I replied nothing but all I could think of was that Gus was a donkey (jackass). Now I had never met this man but I associated the name with the only Gus I have encountered. Gus was a donkey on a Walt Disney movie who kicked field goals. Since this was the only Gus I knew I was having extreme difficulty with the word "distinguished." It did not fit into my implicit personably tract. If she had said "unique," maybe even "winning," there might have been a connection of sorts.

Professions - When the news flash came on television describing Peter Fonda's stealing of a limousine in Chicago and being subsequently let go, my mind seized upon my "actor/actress schema!" I remarked to my husband: "How typical, only an actor could try something so arrogant and get away with it." I was referring to the schema with which I associate actors and actresses: snobbish, self-serving people who consider themselves to be above the law, above other people and exceptions to almost any rule. My schema also considers actors and actresses to have "overly-large egos" and lots of plastic surgery.

Professions - We went sightseeing in Vancouver using their transit system to get around. I was thoroughly impressed with Vancouver and even more so with their transit system and the people. The bus, train, and seabus are part of the same network. For a three dollar (Can. $) day pass, you can go anywhere, anytime by one of the three systems. The amazing thing for me was the bus drivers. They did not fit the schema of a bus driver. They had neat appearances, were friendly, and even thanked you when you left the bus. It was a sharp contrast to the image of the gun-carrying Chicago CTA driver. The extreme contrast to my negative image of drivers probably made them appear more friendly and helpful than they actually were. Had I not been from the Chicago area, I wonder if I'd have been so impressed.

Gender - One example which I have used in my journal entry earlier this term is my relationships with my female boss. Although I like to consider myself a non-prejudicial individual I find myself looking at gender stereotypes when I consider her management techniques. I have found her to be very moody and unpredictable. Because neither of my former supervisors at this corporation (who happened to be male) did not show any evidence of "mood management" I have drawn a conclusion that it is because of her gender. This is unfair and an antiquated view to hold but to be honest I have yet been able to shake this stereotypical view of her.

Gender - I witnessed and participated in two situations where gender-role stereotypes were brought out. My son plays on a traveling soccer team. It is a team for his age group and they play against teams from other towns around northern Illinois. We have traveled from Orland Park to the southeast to Rockford to the west. The kids on these traveling teams are supposed to be the best players of their age from the areas they live in. Last week the team my son played against had a female player. She happened to be the other team's best defensive player. It was interesting hearing the parents of the players on my son's team yell at their sons for not being able to get past that girl. They made statements like "She's only a girl, you must be able to beat her." What was most interesting was that most of the comments were made by mothers -- not fathers.

Religion - Before I married and assumed a Jewish name, I did not realize that the prejudice would be so strong. We are resented almost everywhere we go. It began with my friends. Shortly after we were married, they began to fall away. Even my children from my previous marriage feel uncomfortable around my husband, just simply because he's Jewish. My former in-laws act as if I died. They never ask the children about me and quickly change the subject if one of them mentions my name. Then there's the clerks in stores when they see my name (obviously Jewish) on my credit cards. We're all supposed to be rich, spoiled princesses. Our husbands got rich through unscrupulous business practices. Sometimes they can be very surly. The churches are not much better. They see us as Christ killers and the word "Jew" definitely bears a negative connotation. It's either hurled from the pulpit or whispered in private. I say "we" rather loosely because I'm a Christian and attend church regularly. I'm also a member of a synagogue, that I attend infrequently with my husband. I've heard a lot of snide remarks and I've learned a lot about how these people cope. They're not perfect, but I don't know anyone who is. There's a lot of truth in that old saying about walking in someone's shoes before you judge them. I've been doing it for several years now and I have quite a different perspective. Unfortunately, as long as stereotypes are perpetuated from generation to generation, few people will ever view life through a Jew's eyes and the prejudice will continue.

Sexual Orientation - Seinfeld Episode: An NYU reporter mistakenly comes to believe that Jerry and George are gay. Among other things, it illustrates that given certain expectations it is easy to find confirmation as the reporter continues to find "evidence" to support the belief. Contributed by Steve Fein. [added 4/28/02]

Judgment Biases

Judgment errors - Warning: Your pilot makes irrational decisions too!

Hindsight bias - Some everyday examples

Many concepts - Warren Throckmorton shares this excellent article identifying how a number of social judgment concepts, e.g., belief perseverance, misinformation effect, availability heuristic, are captured in the response to the co-pilot of the Germanwings Flight 9525, who intentionally crashed his plane into the French Alps instantaneously killing all passengers on the flight," and his alleged conversion to Islam. [added 8/18/15]

False memory - At the first link, David Myers provides good analysis of NBC Nightly News anchor Brian Williams' recent escapade with the truth.  More analysis can be found here. [added 8/18/15]

Representative heuristic - lots of good examples on this chart [added 9/4/13]

Errors under pressure - "Details emerge in LAPD's mistaken shooting of newspaper carriers. The women were victims of 'a tragic misinterpretation' by officers working under 'incredible tension,' LAPD Chief Charlie Beck says." [added 9/4/13]

Errors under pressure - "Details emerge in LAPD's mistaken shooting of newspaper carriers. The women were victims of 'a tragic misinterpretation' by officers working under 'incredible tension,' LAPD Chief Charlie Beck says." [added 4/01/13]

Superstitious thinking - good example in this ad for Bud Light [added 12/17/12]

Hindsight bias and elections - [added 12/17/12]

Group self-serving bias - This columnist argues that when the U.S. soldier was accused of killing 16 Afghan civilians there were external, uncontrollable causes given for his behavior, but when Muslims kill it is clearly internally caused. [added 6/18/12]

Confirmation bias - I love this quote from the article: "Our greatest presidents have all been men."  Or as my daughter recently said, "Humans are the only animal that have a word for anxiety."

Confirmation bias - Warren Throckmorton sent along this good example. [added 6/18/12]

Not questioning credentials of the source - Sam Sommers discusses another fascinating case, this one of William Hamman, a pilot who gave medical seminars under the pretense he was a cardiologist. Nobody questioned it. Except his five-year old daughter. Sorry, I just made up that last bit. [4/9/11]

Change blindness - I actually watched this episode of the TV show Community, but I completely missed the storyline in the background. [added 12/5/10]

We see what we know - Is this someone using a cell phone in a Charlie Chaplin film circa 1928? We see what is familiar to us. [added 12/5/10]

Identifiable victim bias (Empathy) - Why are we more willing to empathize with and help a few dozen stranded miners in Chile than the millions affected by flooding in Pakistan? This article suggests it is, in part, because of the miners are more clearly identifiable. [added 9/25/10]

Interpreting events to fit prior beliefs - Interesting paper describing "cases of epilepsy that were interpreted as voodoo possession" [Ed. note: Isn't there a social psych term for this? I'm blanking on it. I'll send you the next issue for free(!) if you can give me the term for interpreting an event in such a way to make it fit one's prior beliefs.] [added 1/13/10]

The Katrina Crisis - Don Forsyth has created a nice review of social psych concepts as they relate to Hurricane Katrina. [added 7/5/09]

Inattentional blindness - Here's a nice variation of the gorilla video example incorporated into an ad. [added 4/16/08]

Mindblindness - This short video which appears to be about a card trick is actually an interesting demonstration of mindblindness. Take a look. [added 7/15/07]

Visual illusions related to social judgment - Some interesting videos are made available online from the Visual Cognition Lab at the University of Illinois. Actual videos used in studies of change blindness and other topics. Illustrates some social perception and expectation errors. Quicktime is required. [added 7/23/03]

Mass Delusion - interesting case of some residents of a town who "hear" a low hum. Do they? [added 6/7/02]

Belief Perseverance - Will there be a higher than normal number of babies born nine months after a blackout in the Northeast? Such a myth still persists about the famous blackout of 1965. [added 11/13/03]

Confirmation Bias

Confirmation bias - In this study, pilots and undergrads (but not orienteers) chose confirmatory evidence when disconfirmatory evidence would have been more helpful. [added 12/16/12]

Confirmation bias - cartoon [added 1/15/12]

Confirmation bias - Ear-based virginity test? "An acupuncturist in Vietnam who claims she can detect a man's virginity based on a small red dot on the ear is credited with helping to free three convicted rapists from prison, the Associated Press reports from Hanoi." [added 9/25/10]

Confirmation bias - Oh, I love this one. How does Fox News interpret the Nuclear Security Summit logo? Jon Stewart explains. [added 6/19/10]

Confirmation bias - Those who believe U.S. President Obama is a Muslim do not change that belief when exposed to news in the media. [added 6/19/10]

Confirmation Bias - Do you have a Secret Santa? Have you figured out who it is? Once you have a guess it is easy to start seeing "signs" that he/she is it. "Well, his hair is always sticking up, so who else would get me a troll doll with a clock in its stomach? He might as well have written his name on the package!" [added 12/29/06]

Confirmation bias - This brief report does a nice job of comparing some current "anti-immigrant hysteria" from Pat Buchanan to similar concerns with past immigrant groups. My colleague Heather Coon also pointed out that it illustrates how easy it is to see what you want to see. [added 12/22/06]

Confirmation Bias - Seinfeld episode: An NYU reporter mistakenly comes to believe that Jerry and George are gay. Among other things, it illustrates that given certain expectations it is easy to find confirmation as the reporter continues to find "evidence" to support the belief. Contributed by Steve Fein. [added 4/28/02]

False consensus effect - The other day my friend exhibited the most blatant false consensus effect I've ever heard (and recognized). I don't know how we got on the subject, but we started talking about things that lots of people do but rarely acknowledge. She said, "Yeah, like when you're sitting alone in your house or something and you can imagine where you'd go and what you'd do if a robber came in!" I simply responded with a vacant stare. She replied, "What, doesn't everyone do that?" Apparently not. Later, she still claimed that lots of people do it. Double whammy: False consensus effect and belief perseverance all in one go. [Editor's note: Who was actually exhibiting the false consensus effect?] [added 4/16/08]

False consensus effect - Every single Saturday morning was dedicated to cleaning the house throughout my childhood. This was designated by my parents and we would each receive chores or a specific set of tasks that we were required to do around the house. I remember one time a friend asking me to come over to her house for a play date on a Saturday morning. I became confused, however, because I assumed that her family would participate in the same Saturday morning cleaning routine and asked if I had to help her clean if I came over. This is an example of the false consensus effect because I believed that others shared the same schedule that I did more than they actually did and was shocked to learn that not all families cleaned on Saturday mornings. [added 4/16/08]

Hindsight Bias - Was Seattle coach Pete Carroll's decision to throw the ball down near the end zone in the 2015 Super Bowl the worst call ever?  See what David Myers thinks. [added 8/18/15]

Hindsight Bias - My oldest son has been trying to decide for several weeks whom to ask to the homecoming dance. One day he would come home and announce he was going to ask Kim. By the time we finished supper he decided to ask Jessica instead. Before bedtime he had decided to ask Sara. I think he was afraid of being turned down and just couldn't decide who was the best bet and least likely to turn him down. Finally he came home from school one day and announced he had asked Jessica to the homecoming dance. My wife immediately said "I just knew all the time she'd be the one you would ask. I would have bet money on it." If she was so sure why didn't she offer to bet. This appears to be the old I-knew-it-all-along phenomenon.

Hindsight bias - The 9-11 commission provides lots of opportunities for participants to exhibit the hindsight bias as remedies seem easier to us now. [added 6/9/04]

Hindsight Bias - Ever watched Jeopardy with someone, and after the answer is given that person says "I knew that one" or "That was an easy one"?

Illusory/spurious correlation / illusion of causation - From Jeff Ricker: "Increasing college costs causes autism." [added 4/01/13]

Illusion of causation - I love this cartoon. [added 3/3/14]

Illusion of causation - The Family Circus cartoon [added 12/26/07]

Illusory correlation and illusion of causation? - "Wireless technology made me sick." Ms Figes said: "The day we installed wi-fi two years ago was the day I started to feel ill. At first I could not work out what the problem was. I had no idea why I felt so sick and run-down. But I knew that when I walked through the front door it felt like walking into a cloud of poison. "Imagine being prodded all over your body by 1,000 fingers. That is what I felt when I walked into the house... Then I started to think it might be the wi-fi, so we scrapped it - and I felt better." [12/27/06]

Illusion of Causation - When I drive to work, or for that matter, when I go anywhere and I'm in a hurry and worried that I will be late, I have a sure fire way to improve my chances of being on time. In order to put on lipstick I have to be at a red light, but every time I want to put on lipstick the traffic signals always seem to stay green. So if I am in a hurry, I always take out my lipstick because I know if I do this it will cause all of the traffic lights to be green! Is this wierd or what! I guess the "what" is illusory causation.

Illusion of Causation -- My parents have been trying to sell their house with little success. My mother finally gave into an old Catholic superstition. She buried St. Joseph (statue - of course) upside-down in the backyard! No, they have not sold it yet -- but she is waiting!

Illusion of Causation - There have been a number of times my family has received extra funds just so the car could break down. My records confirm that whenever we receive any extra cash such as tax returns, insurance settlements, even loans, one of our automobiles breaks down within a predictable interval of time. An interval that always requires a commitment of some of the newly acquired cash.

Illusion of Causation - I found myself half-believing two illusions of causation earlier this week. This is our third home. The first two homes both were sold the year after we built a deck in the back yard. This year we built a deck in the back yard of this third house. I told my husband that we'll be moving next year for sure. Building decks causes us to move. This leads on to my second illusion of causation. We have lived in three houses and I have gone through three pregnancies -- one pregnancy in each house. Therefore, since we are going to move next year, I will also be getting pregnant next year. Moving into a new house causes me to get pregnant. Then again, perhaps I could combine the two illusions into one and just state that building decks cause pregnancies. I know none of this is true, that it's all merely coincidence. (At least, I hope it is.)

Memory Distortion/Reconstruction - "For me I think the point of 'Peggy Sue' is how memory often lies. Peggy Sue is bitter that her husband left her for another woman. She's bitter about that, and she has built it up in her mind that he never loved her. But she goes back in time and she rediscovers that he really did love her. Her memory is disturbed in a valuable way by the experience. The point is that for a lot of the things we believe about our life, it would be a good idea to go back and check the facts." I found the above comments in a movie review. This reminded me of material that we covered about memory. Here is a good example of how the facts got distorted over time. Not all of us can go back in time, in fact, none of us. But if we did, I think we'd find the facts of the past different from the opinions we've created today. Some would have greater differences than others but very few would be exactly.

Overconfidence in clinical judgments - Interesting case of a man exonerated on DNA evidence. He had been convicted 21 years earlier solely on the testimony of a criminal profiler. [added 5/3/08]

Self-fulfilling prophecy - Interesting study: "This effect of body-spray-making a man more attractive because he thinks he is more attractive-represents a self-fulfilling prophesy." [3/29/09]


Expectations affect judgments - More on how we can be fooled while judging wines [added 1/15/12]

Poor decision making at Citigroup - Many judgment errors and overconfidence can be found in this analysis of Citigroup's problems. [added 3/29/09]

Priming and Context - Imagine you are told you will be drinking wine from California or... from North Dakota. Sure, you might prefer the California wine (even though it's the same), but you also say the food you are eating tastes better. [added 9/23/07]

Heuristics - neat, simple, interactive online example of heuristics and cognitive load from Don Forsyth [added 3/6/02]


Topic Resources

Judgment Processes

Thin Slices
Decision Making
Reading Faces/Emotions
Counterfactual Thinking
Other Resources


Judgment Errors


Schemas and Stereotypes

Reconstructing Memory






The Penn State saga - In this blog entry, Sam Sommers connects the sordid issues of Joe Paterno and Penn State to a number of social psych phenomena. [added 1/29/12]

Moral disgust leaves a bad taste, literally - Some more interesting embodied cognition research -- "religious beliefs that contradict one's own also leave a bad taste in the mouth, literally." [added 1/29/12]

More willing to help victims of natural than man-made disasters - [added 5/31/11]

Explaining a death - good application of social psychology to explaining reactions to the death of a Notre Dame student at a football practice [added 12/21/10]

The Ellen Langer story - interesting article about Ellen Langer and some of her fascinating research [added 3/13/10]

Car crash is over before you realize it - Interesting description of the millisecond-by-millisecond events of a side-impact car crash. This particular crash is "over" at 70ms. You aren't consciously aware that you have even been in a crash until 150-300ms. [added 4/19/09]

"The cognitive neuroscience of eye contact" - [added 4/19/09]

"Out of the ordinary: Finding hidden threats by analyzing unusual behavior" - strategies for identifying important information in intelligence data, from a report from the RAND Corporation [added 12/1/04]

Links to sites concerning bizarre and sometimes dangerous beliefs - David Schneider has put together an excellent set of links on cults, paranormal beliefs and other beliefs. [added 7/16/03]]

"Psychology of Intelligence Analysis" - book from the Central Intelligence Agency by Richards J. Heuer, Jr. - the study of thinking applied to intelligence work

Judgment Processes

Thin Slices
Snap judgments/brief slices - A good review of some of the research on how we make very quick judgments, consciously and unconsciously [added 8/17/15]

"Body language can indicate socioeconomic status" - Here is another study indicating how much information we can pick up quickly and nonverbally from brief encounters with others. "The results, reported in Psychological Science, reveal that nonverbal cues can give away a person's SES. Volunteers whose parents were from upper SES backgrounds displayed more disengagement-related behaviors compared to participants from lower SES backgrounds. In addition, when a separate group of observers were shown 60 second clips of the videos, they were able to correctly guess the participants' SES background, based on their body language." [added 4/19/09]

Who's the effective CEO? - Research found that even a very brief exposure to the faces of CEOs permitted participants to distinguish between the "the successful and the not-so-successful CEOs." [added 4/6/08]

Snap judgments and politicians - Very interesting study in which participants saw pictures of two candidates running for the same race for as brief as 1/10 of a second. Participants selected the politician (though participants were not told they were politicians) they thought was more competent. When these ratings were compared with the subsequent outcomes of the political race between the two candidates the researchers found that the snap rating of competence was a very good predictor of who would win the political race. [added 12/11/07]

Decision Making and Prediction


Intuition and unconscious influence on decision making - some fascinating research

Does low glucose levels promote less deliberate thinking? - An interesting meta-analysis of this research just came out, and with an interesting conclusion.  Lower blood glucose leads to a less effortful, less deliberate decision-making, but only about food!

Solomon's paradox - Research finds that we are better at making wise decisions about other people's lives than about our own.  You should fix that. [added 8/18/15]

We're more rational when resources are scarce - [added 8/18/15]

"The mechanics of moral judgment" - A good APS Observer article about moral decision making and the neural mechanisms that may underlie them [added 8/12/15]

"Mindfulness meditation can improve your decision making" - And just 15 minutes worth [added 8/12/15]

Does partisanship even affect visual perception? - Of course. Mitt Romney's face looks different to me than someone on the other side of the spectrum. [added 3/3/14]

"Are Human Decisions Eminently Rational, Hopelessly Irrational, or Neither?" - an essay by Robert Cialdini [added 3/3/14]

"Are classical musical competitions judged on looks?" - [added 3/3/14]

"Poverty breeds lousy decision making" - "It’s true that the poor do make poor choices, but not because of any personal failings. Poverty breeds lousy decision making. Think about it: Good decisions require attention and reasoning and mental discipline. How do you muster those powers when you are preoccupied with, well, being poor? The constant reminders that you are impoverished and contemptible are so threatening that they deplete basic mental resources, leaving little brainpower for sound reasoning and decision making." [added 3/3/14]

How rational are intelligence analysts? - more research questioning the decision-making of experts [added 9/4/13]

How intuitive are homicide detectives? - A little more promising for these experts, but still prone to some types of errors. [added 9/4/13]

Overcoming common obstacles to good decision making - reviews a few social judgment errors with some suggestions for reducing them -- h/t Marianne Miserandino [added 1/5/13]

Do people approve of wealth inequality? Depends on how you ask - "In fact, when we did this experiment another way and we showed people two distributions of wealth, one based on the wealth distribution in the US and the other based on the wealth distribution that is more equal than Sweden, 92% of Americans picked the improved Swedish distribution." [added 1/5/13]

"The mechanics of choice" - good essay on research on decision making [added 7/5/12]

Better at predicting others' behavior than our own - Clever set of studies found that we more often correctly took into situational factors when predicting how others would behave, but we did not consider those factors in predicting our own behavior.
[added 7/5/12]

Jumping to a conclusion - Sam Sommers provides a nice description in his blog entry about our tendency to jump to quick conclusions about people based on limited information, using the case of Representative Anthony Weiner as an example. [added 8/21/11]

"How competent are the competency evaluators?" - The research used the court system in the state of Hawaii to look at how often psychologists/psychiatrists agree with each other when evaluating the competency of a defendant to stand trial. "Examining 729 reports authored by 35 evaluators, they found that all three evaluators agreed in just under three out of four -- or 71 percent -- of initial competency referrals. Agreement was a bit lower -- 61 percent -- in cases where defendants were being reevaluated after undergoing competency restoration treatment." [added 5/31/11]

Counteract "to hell with it" with if-then - "You're probably familiar with what could be called the 'to hell with it' effect. It's when (as demonstrated by lots of research) a bad mood causes us to take risky decisions or engage in risky behaviour. Like when you're feeling down and you drive home dangerously fast or go out and get drunk. Now a team led by Thomas Webb at the University of Sheffield says that we can protect ourselves from this effect by forming 'if-then' implementation decisions in advance. These are self-made plans which state that if a certain situation occurs, then I will respond in a pre-specified way." [added 12/21/10]

The Allais paradox and loss aversion - Good essay addressing factors affecting decision-making such as in the Allais paradox: Suppose somebody offered you a choice between two different vacations. Vacation number one gives you a 50 percent chance of winning a three-week tour of England, France and Italy. Vacation number two offers you a one-week tour of England for sure. Which would you pick? [added 12/19/10]

Estimating other people's drunkenness - Can you estimate how good we are at estimating other people's drunkenness? Read the blog entry and see if your prediction is correct. [added 10/29/10]

Predicting when crime occurs on CCTV - "Are experienced CCTV operators better than naive participants at judging from an unfolding scene on CCTV whether or not a crime is about to be committed? The short answer is no, they aren't. Presented with 24 real-life 15-second CCTV clips, and asked to predict which half ended just before a crime was about to be committed (examples included violence and vandalism) and which half were innocuous, 12 experienced CCTV operators managed just 55.5 per cent accuracy - no better than if they'd just been guessing. Twelve naive controls achieved an accuracy of just 46.5 per cent - no worse, in terms of statistical significance, than the CCTV operators." [added 10/29/10]

Rational rejection of expert advice - interesting article about why it might be rational to ignore many of the calls for more careful attention to security on your computers [added 7/19/10]

How do we interpret low-probability, high-impact events? - "A growing body of research indicates that people making decisions interpret the chances of encountering rare events, such as a child developing tragic complications from a vaccine, in dramatically different ways." [added 7/19/10]

Do we unconsciously evaluate objects/products? - Here is another study examining whether or not the fMRI can be used to detect consumer preferences. [added 7/17/10]

Whom should we screen at airports? - "The U.S. government is refining its terror-screening policy to focus on specific terror threats and not travelers' nationalities. The new policy replaces a security requirement put in place after the attempted bombing of a jetliner en route to Detroit on Christmas Day that singled out people from 14 countries that have been home to terrorists." Which is better? [added 7/14/10]

"What types of advice do decision-makers prefer?" - Students were presented "with fictional decision-making scenarios, such as choosing which job to apply for. The students were offered various permutations of advice and asked to say how satisfied they'd be if a friend had given them that advice. The different kinds of advice were: which option to go for; which option not to go for; info on how to make the decision (e.g. use a points allocation system); information on one or more of the options; and sympathy about the difficulty of making a decision. "Whilst all forms of advice were positively received," the students' primary "preference was for information about one or more of the options." [added 7/19/10]

U.S. still a "fearful nation" - Barry Glassner, author of The Culture of Fear, claims we are still a fearful nation in this interesting essay, and he discusses the consequences of that. [added 2/13/10]

"Death" warnings increase smoking? - According to this study, for those whose self-esteem is tied to smoking, encountering threatening messages about smoking increases the tendency to smoke. [added 2/13/10]

Do you hang up your diplomas? - "The key finding was that students who saw an office with certificates on the wall rated the therapist not only as more skillful, experienced, better-trained, and more authoritative, but also as more friendly, kinder, welcoming, congenial and interested in clients. Indeed, the more certificates the better. Students who saw an office with four or nine certificates and diplomas rated the therapist as even more friendly and proficient than students who saw an office with just two or no certificates. And when it came to the perceived energy and dynamism of the therapist, nine certificates was better than four." [added 1/18/10]

More on unconscious vs. conscious decision-making - Ap Dijksterhuis and his colleagues are at it again -- testing the question of when unconscious decision-making might be superior to conscious decision-making. In this study, they show "that people with expertise in football (soccer) are better at predicting match outcomes when they spend time not consciously thinking about their predictions." [added 1/18/10]

Emotions affect assessment of risk - We interpret our more immediate emotions as more important. [added 1/18/10]

Is unconscious decision-making better? - A brief but good review of some of the "backlash" against unconscious thought theory and the superiority of unconscious decision-making for some types of decisions. This is a also a good case study of how scientific knowledge evolves. [7/13/09]

Is there a too-much-choice effect? - Remember the too-much-choice effect? It says that sometimes we are more satisfied if we have to choose among 6 options than 24. This research brings that effect into question, looking at variables that may moderate it. Good thing. I was thinking of just cutting down to two or three newsletter entries so you wouldn't be frustrated with me. Now, I'll keep them all in! [7/13/09]

"Why we keep falling for financial scams" - a good article in the line of why smart people do dumb things [added 4/19/09]

Anchoring in credit card rates - Blog entry describing research in which "Hundreds of participants were given a credit-card bill with an outstanding balance of £435.76 and asked how much they could afford to pay off, given their real-life finances. Crucially, half the participants were shown what the minimum compulsory payment was and half weren't. The presence or not of information about a minimum payment didn't affect the proportion of participants who said they'd pay the balance off in full. However, among those 45 per cent of participants who said they'd pay only some of the bill, the presence of information about the minimum required payment had a dramatic effect on how much they said they'd pay." [added 4/19/09]

"How can decision making be improved?" - This paper reviews the literature to examine strategies for improving decision making [added 4/19/09]

"CIA guide to optimised thinking" - "The CIA have released the full text of a book on the psychology of analysing surveillance data. While aimed at the CIA's analysts, it's also a great general guide on how to understand complex situations and avoid our natural cognitive biases in reasoning." [6/20/08]

It's how you present the numbers -- "Would you rather support research for a disease that affects 30,000 Americans a year or one that affects just .01 percent of the U.S. population?" Research on how you present the numbers. [6/20/08]

"Why things cost $19.95" - another interesting recap of research from Wray Herbert's APS blog "We're only human" [added 4/6/08]

Representative heuristic - Wikipedia comes through with a good explanation of the concept. [added 3/21/08]

Chocolate's influence on course evaluations! - You heard me. What happens if you are offered chocolate (by a complete stranger, not the instructor) before you complete an evaluation of your instructor? See what the study found. [added 12/9/07]

"I'll agree to do the right week" - "When making decisions a person often thinks that she should make certain choices (e.g., increasing savings, reduce gas consumption) but does not want to make them. This intrasubjective tension between 'multiple selves' has been referred to as a 'want/should' conflict. In four experiments we show that people are more likely to choose what they believe they should choose when the choice will be implemented in the future rather than implemented immediately, a tendency we refer to as 'future lock-in.'" [added 7/06/07]

When is more better? - interesting article in the APS Observer (2005) about when we perceive more to be better and by how much [added 1/14/06]

Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System - tracks health risk behavior among young people - from the National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion - for example, see trends [added 7/19/02]

Jonathan Baron has made a good number of his papers available on the web related to decision-making, and, in particular, maximization of utility (good)

Bounded Rationality - article from ScienceNews (1999) on decision-making heuristics

Reading Faces/Emotions


Face recognition: You don't know what you know - In another case of humans overestimating our abilities, research suggests we don't really know how good we are at face recognition.

"Face-matching is harder than we realised" - It is not easy to compare a person's live face and a picture of that person.  Ask an eyewitness or a passport checker.

Apparently, London's Metropolitan Police super-recognizers are just that - A while back I mentioned an article about how the Metropolitan Police were now using detectives who were identified as being quite good at identifying faces from photographs (super-recognizers).  This new article describes research published in Applied Cognitive Psychology which found they were the real deal.

"The detectives who never forget a face" - Fascinating article about a special unit of "super-recognizers" in the London police force

"More analytical, less intuitive people are better at empathy"

Can you tell when someone is angry or irritated? - Interesting research says we often misinterpret someone's facial expression as angry or irritated when they are not.  Women actually make this error more often than men.

Teen criminals better at detecting lying in their peers - 50% accuracy (chance) for non-offenders and 67% accuracy for offenders

Can you make your face look more trustworthy? - Yes, according to this research. Competent? Not so much.

Facial trustworthiness shapes perceptions of behavior - [added 8/18/15]

Experienced job interviewers no better than novices and spotting liars - [added 9/4/13]

Reading poker faces in the arms - Non-poker players could tell when professional poker players had a good hand by looking at their arm movements, but not from their faces. [added 9/4/13]

Reading faces - Interesting study asks a unique question: Can you tell what this person was just doing by looking at their facial expression? [added 9/4/13]

Trustworthiness in robots - Some research using a robot investigated our use of non-verbal cues to judge trustworthiness. Nexi is the very engaging robot that exhibited the non-verbal cues. Read about the research at this link, and click on the link at the bottom of the press release to see Nexi in action. [added 3/5/13]

"Most people can fake a genuine 'Duchenne' smile" - Not what we used to think just a few years ago. [added 1/1/13]

Why is it so hard to detect lying? - [added 7/5/12]

Does watching Lie to Me make me a better lie detector? - Interesting study finds that watching the show Lie to Me, about people who can use microexpressions to detect lies, actually leads to less accurate lie detection. [added 1/29/12]

"Botox users have trouble reading emotions in others" - an article in Time magazine -- more embodied cognition research [added 8/21/11]

The study of smiling - very interesting story in the APS Observer on the many facets of smiling research and what it all means [added 12/21/10]

Estimating other people's drunkenness - Can you estimate how good we are at estimating other people's drunkenness? Read the blog entry and see if your prediction is correct. [added 10/29/10]

Be a good lie detector? Don't mimic - Fascinating study: "So while the dozens of tricks employed in Lie To Me can help true experts detect lies, this simple study seems to show that simply telling interviewers not to mimic the behavior of the people they are talking to can make them much better at detecting lies." [added 2/13/10]

"Empathic people remember your smell" - "Forty-four female university students were twice tasked with smelling three t-shirts and picking out the one that belonged to their room-mate. The t-shirts had been carefully prepared - worn overnight for an average of eight hours, after the owner had used scent-free toiletries for the previous two days. Based on their performance, the students were arranged in three groups: 21 of them failed both times to pick out the correct t-shirt; 10 of them picked the correct t-shirt once; and 13 of them picked the correct t-shirt both times. The key finding was that the students who both times identified their room-mate's t-shirt by its smell also tended to excel at a test of identifying facial emotional expressions, and at a test of empathy in which they had to say how someone would feel in a range of different situations." What if you can smell your roommate's t-shirt from 20 yards away? [added 1/18/10]

Detecting lying - Paul Ekman has received a lot of attention lately for his development of lie detection through microexpressions and its use on the new TV show Lie to Me.

What does a Bob (or Tim) look like? - very interesting study examining how we associate certain names with certain shaped faces, and how if a name does not match a shape it is easier to forget [added 7/19/07]

Reading faces - article on how Americans and Japanese read faces (and emoticons!) differently [added 7/19/07]

Counterfactual Thinking

'Counterfactual' thinkers are more motivated and analytical - [added 3/13/10]


Two priming replications coming - good fodder for discussion in your courses

Can you be reckless and moral? - Yes, according to this research which finds that for behavior which may be reckless but not immoral, such as skydiving, priming of God boosted non-moral risktaking. [added 8/17/15]

Hand on heart = More honest judgment - "As the participants made their ratings of the women (from 1 "definitely unattractive" to 9 "definitely attractive"), they were told to place their hand on their heart, or on their hip. The cover story was that the study was about the effects of cognitive load on judgments of appearance, and this extra action acted as cognitive load. The key finding was that participants who had their hand on their heart provided significantly harsher (yet more honest) ratings for the women previously categorised as unattractive, as compared with participants who had their hand on their hip. In contrast, there was no difference between the groups in the ratings they gave to the women categorised previously as moderately attractive." [added 8/12/15]

Behavioral priming and replication - The journal Perspectives in Psychological Science just published an excellent set of articles on the recent controversy regarding priming research.  Here is a summary of those articles.  Here is the first of those articles, introducing the topic. [added 8/12/15]

More on priming - Blog entry discusses recent theory and research trying to identify why priming research is often hit or miss. [added 3/3/14]

Priming of test performance - Not really social psych, but another interesting use of priming -- placebo priming in this case [added 9/4/13]

John Bargh and the priming controversy - another good article on the topic [added 9/4/13]

Kahneman recommends cleaning up priming research - "Nobel prize-winner Daniel Kahneman has issued a strongly worded call to one group of psychologists to restore the credibility of their field by creating a replication ring to check each others’ results." [added 1/1/13]

The Bargh/Chen/Burrows failed replication controversy continues - In an earlier issue I pointed you to discussion of a failed replication of the classic priming study in which participants walked more slowly after priming for old age. Emotions have got quite heated as a number of psychologists have entered the fray to debate the merits of the original study and subsequent replications. The first link is to an overview of the controversy. Here is the original article. Lots of good methodological issues for your students to consider. [added 7/5/12]

The signature effect - This article looks at research studying how writing your signature may prime or activate your identify which can influence later decisions and behaviors. [added 5/31/11]

"Smells like safe sex" - I've mentioned one of my favorite studies before (Smells like clean spirit...) in which priming with a faint cleaning smell affected participants behavioral intentions and behavior. I imagine we will get quite a few such smell-priming studies. Here is another one in which priming with a putrid smell led more participants to say they would use condoms. This would make a good hypothesis-generating exercise for your students: Can you generate a prediction of how a particular smell might prime particular attitudes, behaviors, or other outcomes? [added 5/31/11]

"Feeling clean makes us harsher moral judges" - "Half the students were asked to clean their hands with an antiseptic wipe so as not to soil the shiny surfaces. Afterwards all the students rated the morality of six societal issues including pornography and littering. Those who'd wiped their hands made far harsher judgments than those who didn't." [added 10/29/10]

Primed for disease makes you less sociable and less extraverted - [added 7/19/10]

Death and a zest for life - These interesting studies asked if exposure to death (priming, in this case) enhances one's valuing of life, and, conversely, if valuing of life enhanced one's focus on death. [added 1/18/10]

Priming of pride - Another interesting priming study in which participants who were primed for pride stood up taller while those primed for disappointment slouched more, consciously unaware of the manipulation [7/13/09]

"Do social psychologists cause priming research, or does priming research cause social psychologists?" - Enjoy! [7/13/09]

A "ripeness bias"? - interesting priming research from the lab of John Bargh [6/20/08]

"Wine labels with animals on them: why they work" - interesting priming research [added 5/20/08]

Primed for spaciousness - A summary of interesting research in which participants were primed for either closeness or spaciousness and then asked to evaluate the aversiveness of different stimuli. Those primed for spaciousness or "distance" from something found the stimuli less aversive. [added 4/26/08]

Priming the unconscious - a New York Times article about the hot area of priming [added 11/10/07]

Fear of death and political preferences - An article (click here to read original research) has received a lot of attention in our current (2004) U.S. election climate. Research is finding that when we are exposed to reminders of death or 9/11 we tend to favor "charismatic" leaders such as George Bush. It is also another excellent example of the power of priming. The link above is to a summary of this research published in the APS Observer. [added 12/1/04]

Other Resources

Are you smart? Let me listen. - "The results were convincing. First, the job applicants had no expectation that speaking would help them or hurt them. But speaking did indeed help them, and quite a lot. Employers who heard the pitch rated the candidate’s intellect more favorably, compared to employers who read the same pitch. They also had a more favorable impression of the candidate overall, and they were much more likely to hire that candidate. Importantly, employers who also watched the video did not rate the candidate differently than those who just heard the pitch. So adding more information about the candidate—through physical appearance and mannerisms—did not change judgments of the candidate’s mind. Intellect was conveyed primarily through voice." [added 8/18/15]

Pizza Hut's new mindreading app - Apparently, Pizza Hut has a new app that can read your unconscious preferences.  I wonder if it can tell gay from straight men in 100ms. [added 8/18/15]

Neural mechanisms of moral judgment - [added 8/12/15]

Excuses and justifications - a good blog entry distinguishing between excuses and justifications and some discussion about how we use each [added 8/12/15]

Embodied cognition - a nice infographic of a few examples of embodied cognition [added 8/12/15]

"Visual illusions foster open-mindedness" - Interesting study [added 7/13/15]

First impressions - [added 1/1/13]

Low-sugar theory of weakened willpower becoming depleted - "One of the main findings in willpower research is that it's a limited resource. Use self-control up in one situation and you have less left over afterwards - an effect known as "ego-depletion". This discovery led to a search for the underlying physiological mechanism. In 2007, Roy Baumeister, a pioneer in the field, and his colleagues reported that the physiological correlate of ego-depletion is low glucose. Self-control leads the brain to metabolise more glucose, so the theory goes, and when glucose gets too low, we're left with less willpower." But new research.... Wait, what if one-third of the researchers conducting these studies drank lemonade beforehand, one-third rinsed with lemonade, and one-third watched other researchers drink lemonade. Then, what would they find? So many possibilities, so little time. Can you go back to earlier issues of the Newsletter and tell which ones I rinsed with lemonade before composing them and which ones I didn't? Can you tell I drank three Pibb Xtras before I started this one? [added 1/1/13]

How does your name affect my perception of you? - Good essay by Sam Sommers on some research on names and the name-pronunciation effect -- "The idea is that people with easier-to-pronounce names tend to be evaluated more positively than people with harder-to-pronounce names." [added 1/5/13]

"Just how independent are independent voters?" - Sam Sommers reviews research finding that independents are like the rest of us -- they are influenced by prior attitudes (party affiliations). I know, social psychology is the study of the obvious. [added 1/5/13]

Why you keep playing the lottery - Yes, you.
[added 1/5/13]

We (slightly) prefer the middle option - Below is research on the "last effect" in which participants preferred a fifth chocolate in a taste test better when it was presented as the "last" chocolate as opposed to the "next" chocolate. In an array though, as opposed to a series of experiences, it appears we have a slight preference for the middle item. [added 7/5/12]

When is "an eternity"? - Depends on what you are waiting for, as this cartoon illustrates. I wonder how long 5 seconds seems if you are used to waiting 30 seconds. [added 7/5/12]

When does your unconscious make better decisions? - Apparently, when it has had a hit of sugar. Mr. Pibb, preferably. But that's just me. [added 7/5/12]

"Enclothed" cognition - I was intrigued by this research which investigated how the clothing we are wearing affects our cognitions. For example, participants who were wearing white lab coats committed only half as many errors on the Stroop Test than those wearing their normal clothes.
[added 7/5/12]

Is the last chocolate better than the next chocolate? - Sam Sommers discusses this clever study in which participants tasted five chocolates. Half of the participants were told the fifth one was the next chocolate, and half were told it was the last chocolate. Those who were told it was the last one liked it better. (I was tempted to begin this issue of the Newsletter by telling you it was the last issue, but the panic and deep despair that would likely follow could send shockwaves through world markets that we just don't need right now.) Ask your students where else this might apply. How could it be used in persuasive attempts? [added 7/5/12]

"Thinking for others can boost your creativity" - [added 5/31/11]

How long does it take for a habit to become automatic? - From this research now we know -- average of 66 days. [added 12/19/10]

Massage leads to oxytocin in bloodstream which leads to trust - Alert: Before reading the above article, have someone massage your shoulders. I wouldn't lie to you. [added 12/18/10]

Processing fluency and judgment - I have shared a number of studies which have found that, for example, if instructions are in an easier-to-read font, we assume the task will be easier to complete. The more fluently we can process information the more favorably we respond to it. This article summarizes a lot of that research. [added 2/13/10]

"CCTV cameras don't reassure, they frighten" - "Dave Williams and Jobuda Ahmed presented 120 participants - shoppers in Hatfield - with pictures of a fictional town centre street scene. When the scene contained both a skinhead and a CCTV camera, the participants, aged between 18 to 70 years, reported raised concern about walking in the scene, compared with when the same scene was either empty, contained a woman with or without a CCTV camera, or a skinhead without a camera. In other words, it was specifically the combination of a skinhead and CCTV that provoked fear - neither had any effect on their own." [added 1/18/10]

"We infer rather than perceive the moment we decided to act" - Free will? Free choice? This clever study attempts to address related questions. "They asked eight Pomona College undergraduates to watch a representation of a clock on a computer screen. While they watched, their hand was on a button that was hidden from their own view. A cursor moved around the clock's dial once every 2.6 seconds. The students were told to press the button whenever they wished, and then report exactly where the cursor was at the moment they made the decision to press the button. This was repeated 160 times for each student. The trick was that as they pressed the button, the computer made a short beep. Unknown to the students, there was a slight delay between when the button was pressed and when the beep sounded. This delay varied randomly between 5 and 60 milliseconds. Did the timing of the beep affect when the students believed they had decided to press the button?" Can we tell when we decided to act, or do we just infer it from other information? [added 1/18/10]

"Finding a scapegoat when epidemics strike" - good review of some historical epidemics and the groups that were blamed for them [added 1/18/10]

"Looking to the future to appreciate the present" - When undergraduates' remaining time in college was framed as brief ("keep in mind that you only have a short amount of time left to spend at UVA. In fact, you have about 1,200 hours left before graduation") they viewed their undergraduate experience more positively than if it was framed as longer ("keep in mind that you have a significant amount of time left to spend at UVA. In fact, you have about 1/10 of a year left before graduation"). Do you look back more favorably on something as it is just about to end? [added 1/18/10]

Reading confusing prose heightens one's search for meaning - This "We're Only Human" column by Wray Herbert summarizes some interesting research in which participants read some Kafka (or less confusing text) and then were asked to identify patterns in a difficult task. Those who read Kafka (and were, thus, more disoriented) appeared more motivated to find meaning and order in the next task. As Herbert notes, we are "irrepressible meaning makers." [added 1/18/10]

Conspiracy theorists - Do they even exist? I have my doubts. [added 1/18/10]

How language shapes the way we think - interesting essay with some cool examples [7/13/09]

Okay, more like "apple judgment" - "We find that 75% of the participants are willing to pay more for organic than for conventional apples given identical appearance. However, at the first sight of any imperfection in the appearance of the organic apples, this segment is significantly reduced. Furthermore, the cosmetic damage has a larger impact on the willingness to pay for organic apples than for conventional apples." [7/13/09]

Does physical warmth promote interpersonal warmth? - This intriguing study looks at the flipside of cold -- warmth, and looks at how temperature affects perception as opposed to the study above in which perception affects perception of temperature. Fascinating stuff. First link is to the research article; second link is to a blog summary of it. [added 4/19/09]

Unconscious vs. conscious; powerful vs. powerless - another We're Only Human column reviewing some research finding that those in a more powerful position can better handle conscious processing of complex decisions [added 4/19/09]

"How voters think" - An op-ed columnist uses social judgment research to analyze voters' thinking. [added 4/6/08]

"Do verbal metaphors affect what we see?" - Very interesting set of studies in which the valence of words affects our perception of shades of gray -- positive words produce "lighter" responses and negative words produce "darker" responses. [added 11/21/07]

"How culture affects the way we think" - a good report from the 2007 APS convention [added 11/10/07]

"Unreason's seductive charms" - The link is to a 2003 article in the Chronicle of Higher Education in which David Barash examines the appeal of certain irrationalities. Included is an interesting discussion of Leda Cosmides' research on logical reasoning using the Wason Test, comparing abstract versus social situations (e.g., cheating, deception). Further discussion of her research in an evolutionary context can be found at this site: "Evolutionary psychology: A primer". [added 3/23/04]

Common Sense - discussion of common sense, interactive T/F test on some common misperceptions such as "opposites attract" and fallacies leading to "common sense"

Connectionist Models of social reasoning - preface from a book edited by Read and Miller describing connectionist (neural network) models

Apocalyptic Beliefs - PBS Frontline show on the "evolution of apocalyptic belief and how it shaped the western world"

Judgment Errors


He just got lucky - Uber-talented David Myers admits that luck also played a role in his success.

Social sampling distorts perceptions of distribution of wealth - If you hang around other wealthy people you overestimate how wealthy everyone else is.  Same for other economic levels. [added 8/18/15] 

"Cognitive biases worsen winter driving" - Well, YOUR cognitive biases do.  Why don't you just stay home with your biases next time? [added 8/18/15]

The Cyranoid Illusion - This is pretty cool.  Could you tell if a person you were conversing with was actually speaking his/her own words or being fed words by someone else?  "The first study was a proof of concept. Forty participants (average age 30; 22 women) spent 10 minutes in conversation with a 26-year-old man, getting to know him. They thought this man was another participant, but in fact he was working for the researchers. For half the participants, the man spoke freely as himself. For the other half, he was a Cyranoid and spoke the words of a 23-year-old woman hidden in an adjacent room. In this condition, the woman could see and hear the man's interactions, and she fed him what to say live, via the wireless earpiece he was wearing.  Afterwards, the participants were asked whether they thought the man had spoken his own thoughts, or whether his answers were scripted. Only a tiny minority of participants in both groups thought this might be true. None of them thought he'd had his words fed to him by radio. The participants in the Cyranoid condition were astonished and amused when told the truth of the situation."  The blog entry discusses some interesting possibilities for this illusion. [added 8/18/15]

Are those with extreme views mindless and not thoughtful? - No, according to this interesting research which shows that those with more extreme views are actually less likely to exhibit an anchoring bias. [added 8/17/15]

"Why psychotherapy appears to work (even when it doesn't)" - A good summary of research on how therapists are susceptible to all the biases the rest of us are [added 8/17/15]

Climate deniers: How to deal with contradictory evidence - Here is some good analysis of how to maintain beliefs and manipulate opinion in the face of overwhelmingly contradictory evidence.  Here is a story about a climate scientist and evangelical Christian who is having some success changing minds. [added 8/17/15]

Motivated reasoning and the U.S. Supreme Court - Similar to the story immediately above this one, here is a good review of some research on how we often are motivated to cling to our most strongly-held beliefs despite contradictory evidence, even if we are Supreme Court justices. [added 8/17/15]

Reducing the sunk cost bias through meditation - I can see a trend starting here. Can meditation be used to reduce other cognitive biases? [added 9/4/13]

Moderates, conservatives overestimate similarity; liberals underestimate it - This blog entry reviews this new research suggesting that it can explain why Occupy Wall Street failed and why the Tea Party is still around. [added 9/4/13]


"The Debunking Handbook" - "Although there is a great deal of psychological research on misinformation, there's no summary of the literature that offers practical guidelines on the most effective ways of reducing the influence of myths. The Debunking Handbook boils the research down into a short, simple summary, intended as a guide for communicators in all areas (not just climate) who encounter misinformation." Available in multiple languages. [added 1/1/13]

Paranormal believers more likely to see Elvis in their ratatouille - [added 1/1/13]

"We think more rationally in a foreign language" - That explains a lot; I'm monolingual. [added 7/5/12]

Fooled by numbers - essay reviewing research on how we like numbers but are often fooled by them [added 1/29/12]

Jumping to a conclusion - Sam Sommers provides a nice description in his blog entry about our tendency to jump to quick conclusions about people based on limited information, using the case of Representative Anthony Weiner as an example. [added 8/21/11]

Wishing versus believing - This blog entry describes some interesting research that compared what people wish for versus what they believe. "The study recruited subjects who believed that child home care was superior to day care. Half of the subject were conflicted about the issue and indicated that they intended to use day care for their children. The subjects were motivated to believe that day care was as good as home care. The un-conflicted group indicated that they intended to use only home care. The subjects were given two fictional studies. Half the subjects were led to believe study 1 favored day care and study 2 home care; the other half of the subjects were led to believe the opposite for studies 1 and 2. After reading the studies, the subjects evaluated which of the two studies provided more valid conclusions, listed the strengths and weaknesses and evaluated the persuasiveness of each study. The subjects’ last task was to evaluate which form of childcare would have a better effect on child development. The results of the study dramatically showed subjects were more persuaded by scientific evidence that confirmed what they wished to be true than what they initially believed to be true." [added 8/21/11]

"We believe experts who confirm our beliefs" - "It's our values that determine the credibility that we give to experts,” according to Éric Montpetit and Érick Lachapelle, professors at the Université de Montréal Department of Political Science. “We judge based on our political predispositions. This highlights the limit of rationality when shaping an opinion.” [added 5/31/11]

Border bias - Is an environmental threat that exists 200 miles away within your own state a greater danger than a similar threat 200 miles away across state lines? If you think so, and many of us apparently do, you are exhibiting "border bias." And if the state border on a map is even more distinct you exhibit even more of the bias. [added 12/21/10]

Outsmarting your biases - [added 12/19/10]

"Finding meaning in random sequences" - more on the power and peril of intuition [added 7/19/10]

More human than average? - Research has documented that most of us believe we are better than average, but this research finds that we tend to believe that we are more human than others as well. [added 7/19/10]

Jumping to quick conclusions in the Alabama shooting - Sam Sommers provides some more good social psychological commentary on a current news tragedy. [added 3/13/10]

Confirmation bias - This blog entry provides a nice summary of some confirmation bias research, including one which found that global news consumers selected the news outlet that fit their political attitudes. Interestingly, the study found that "The longer participants had been watching AJE (Al-Jazeera English), the less dogmatic they were in their thinking...The reduced dogmatism applies only to the cognitive levels of thinking, or the way in which people process new information." [added 2/13/10]

"How did economists get it so wrong?" - interesting analysis from Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman on the many biases that led economists to misforecast the current economic situation [added 1/18/10]

"Interacting with women can impair men's cognitive functioning" - [added 1/18/10]

Too much thinking can impair your prediction for preferences - More research on the question of whether I should trust my conscious or unconscious processes in decision making [7/13/09]

"Why we keep falling for financial scams" - a good article in the line of why smart people do dumb things [added 4/19/09]

Superstitions - Interesting APS Observer article on superstitious thinking [added 4/19/09]

"Why fondness makes us poor judges, but dislike is spot-on" - Interesting study finds the false consensus effect for items we like, but less false consensus when it is about something we dislike. [added 5/20/08]

Magic and misdirection - interesting article from The New York Times about magicians with a particular interest in the cognitive aspects of their work discussing inattentional blindness and other judgment processes and errors [added 11/10/07]

The Monty Hall Problem - I already have one interactive online illustration of the Monty Hall Problem on the Resources website, but here are two more good, animated illustrations and explanations. The second one is also interactive. Remarkably, the answer still remains the same! [added 7/8/07]

Monty Hall Dilemma - interactive site where students can experience the dilemma and have it explained [added 3/23/04]

Confirmation bias - Paper describes how we selectively gather our news from sources that agree with us. I don't, but apparently most of you do! [added 12/31/06]

Political bias affects brain activity - article from MSNBC [added 2/22/06]

Cognitive biases among professional athletes - A research report from the Social Science Research Network entitled, "It's not about the money: The role of preferences, cognitive biases and heuristics among professional athletes" -- scroll to bottom of page to download/view paper [added 1/11/06]

Forensic "science" - I can't recommend this series enough. This five-part series published by the Chicago Tribune does a fantastic job of exposing the lack of scientific support for many forensic techniques such as fingerprinting, arson investigation, and firearm and bite mark identification. It also describes quite well how the justice system and juries so easily fall for the claims of supposed "experts," how they became "experts," and why it is so easy for many of them engage in confirmation bias and belief perseverance. [added 12/1/04]

The forgotten origins of the self-serving bias - Probably like most of you, I assumed that the self-serving bias had been part of human nature for as long as, well, we've been humans. But, with a little digging, I discovered it's a relatively new phenomenon! [added 12/1/04]

Superstitions - a very large collection of superstitions [added 12/1/04]

Errors in business and diplomacy - more examples of judgment errors and overconfidence from mathematician John Allen Paulos [added 11/11/03]

Power of coincidence - interesting essay from David Myers [added 2/4/03]

Extrasensory perception - also from David Myers, a nice research-based analysis of claims of ESP [added 2/4/03]

The hot hand effect - this blog, from Alan Reifman, is devoted to the phenomenon of the "streaky" shooter/hitter - it includes a description of and links to research and researchers of this possible illusion [added 6/13/02]

"Do we Fear the Right Things?" - essay from David Myers published in the APS Observer on judgment biases related to the events of September 11, 2001

"Mass delusions and hysterias" - description of many such cases over the last millennium - from the Skeptical Enquirer

Inattentional/Change Blindness

Inattentional experts! - Here is a clever study that compared trained radiologists against novices in detecting cancer nodules on lungs on MRIs, CTs, and PET scans. Fortunately, the radiologists were much better at spotting the nodules. But would they be any better at spotting the picture of a gorilla that showed up on some slides? Not much. 20 out of 24 of the radiologists never saw the gorilla, even though it was quite obvious when looking for it. [added 9/3/13]

The original inattentional blindness studies? - Dan Simons uncovers some interesting studies. [added 1/29/12]

Change deafness - First change blindness, and now evidence that we often fail to attend to things we hear. Can change blandness or change stuffedupness be far behind? Yeah, I know that was a reach, but do we have any words for not being able to taste or smell, other than medical terms? [added 1/29/12]

Inattentional blindness, driving, and unicycling clowns - "Ira Hyman and colleagues at Western Washington University think a key reason for the adverse cognitive effects of talking on a mobile phone has to do with 'inattentional blindness' - the failure to notice new information in the environment. To circumvent the limitations of the car studies, they've performed a stripped-down, naturalistic study of people walking diagonally 375 feet across their university's Red Square. They noted whether people walking this popular route were talking on a mobile, listening to an iPod, talking with another person who was present, or just walking on their own without any distractions. When these individuals reached the other side of the square, the researchers asked them if they'd noticed the unicycling clown positioned strategically just to the side of the diagonal path." Also, here is a nice page where researchers are keeping track of recent research on inattentional blindness. [added 10/29/10]

Change blindness - I actually watched this episode of the TV show Community, but I completely missed the storyline in the background. [added 12/5/10]

Inattentional blindness - Here's a nice variation of the gorilla video example incorporated into an ad. [added 4/16/08]

Mindblindness - This short video which appears to be about a card trick is actually an interesting demonstration of mindblindness. Take a look. [added 7/15/07]

Visual illusions related to social judgment - Some interesting videos are made available online from the Visual Cognition Lab at the University of Illinois. Actual videos used in studies of change blindness and other topics. Illustrates some social perception and expectation errors. Quicktime is required. [added 7/23/03]


"Engaging lectures can breed overconfidence" - More in the line of fluency research -- if students perceive that you are clearly, confidently, and fluently presenting material in class they tend to be more overconfident about how well they will do on exams. THAT explains why I give so many D's and F's. [added 9/4/13]


Doubting your doubt = confidence? - If you doubt your doubt you will be more confident than if you are confident in your doubt? So the study says. "For instance, by turning a belief that one is definitely going to fail into a belief that one might fail, a therapist could help inspire a client to overcome the paralysis of hopelessness." [added 3/13/10]

"Why we keep falling for financial scams" - a good article in the line of why smart people do dumb things [added 4/19/09]

"The certainty epidemic" - an article on the neurobiology of belief [added 4/26/08]

"The constructive value of overconfidence" - I knew I was right, being overconfident is not all that bad. Told you. [added 4/6/08]

"The danger of knowing for sure" - excellent essay published the day after the terrorist attacks by Peter Bowditch that links these events with certainty of beliefs - also includes a nice distinction between skepticism and cynicism

"Why bad beliefs don't die" - interesting essay on why we are biologically designed to be resistant to change - from the Skeptical Enquirer

Schemas and Stereotypes

"Our brains distort faces to fit stereotypes"

31 stereotypes about book lovers - A lot of ways you could use these in class -- for example, have students figure out how they could determine the accuracy of one of them. "How would you measure that?" [added 3/3/14]

Everyone hates environmentalists and feminists - I usually have a good discussion in class about how such negative stereotypes are formed and maintained. [added 3/3/14]

"Babies prefer individuals who harm those that aren't like them" - A very clever study -- it starts early. [added 8/19/13]

Should adult males be allowed to sit next to unattended children on planes? - Story of a male nurse who was asked to move to another seat. H/T to Dennis Dew. [added 1/1/13]

Stereotype of the driver with front-end car damage - Sam Sommers shares another personal and enjoyable (for us, at least) anecdote in which he suffers the consequences of driving around in a car that has front end damage. As he notes, if you drive a car with a beat up back bumper other drivers often think the offender was someone who ran into you, but if your front end is damaged.... [added 5/31/11]

Do NBA refs exhibit own race bias? - very interesting story about a study of NBA referees, how the NBA responded, and how the story and research evolved -- H/T to Harry Wallace [added 12/21/10]

Why are there so few female chess champions? - This is a clever study and an excellent example of stereotype threat. "Forty-two male-female pairs, matched for ability, played two chess games via the Internet. When players were unaware of the sex of opponent (control condition), females played approximately as well as males. When the gender stereotype was activated (experimental condition), women showed a drastic performance drop, but only when they were aware that they were playing against a male opponent. When they (falsely) believed to be playing against a woman, they performed as well as their male opponents. In addition, our findings suggest that women show lower chess-specific self-esteem and a weaker promotion focus, which are predictive of poorer chess performance." [added 1/18/10]

Stereotyping people by how much they can satisfy your goals - This blog entry describes some interesting research which suggests we may also categorize people as useful or not useful to our goals. [added 1/18/10]

Stereotypes and chefs - Do you watch the TV show Top Chef? Do you ever see any Black chefs, judges, etc.? Asian? [7/13/09]

Was that BMW going faster than that VW? - "Driver stereotypes affect our memory of how fast a car was travelling."

Boys with unpopular names more likely to be criminals? - This article describes an interesting study which finds "that adolescent boys with unpopular names are likelier than other boys to be referred to the juvenile-justice system for alleged offenses." The article also describes other interesting research about names. [added 4/19/09]

Humor can perpetuate stereotypes and discrimination - [added 12/16/07]

"Behavior detection officers" - Interesting blog about officials "introduced to US airports who have been trained to pick out potential terrorists by analysing, at least in part, facial expressions." [added 11/10/07]

"I can instantly tell whether...blackdar" - an amusing article from the satirical online newspaper The Onion [added 12/31/06]

Study of violence by former mental health patients - interesting study conducted by the MacArthur Research Network asking "How does the rate of violence by former mental patients compare with the rate of violence by other members of the community?" [added 7/23/03]

Reconstructing Memory

Easy to implant false memories? No, says new review

"Your memory of events is distorted within seconds" - Blog entry describes some clever studies illustrating how quickly we modify our memories of events. [added 7/5/12]

Lie detection through drawings - Very cool study -- "Aldert Vrij's new study involved 31 police and military participants going on a mock mission to pick up a package from another agent before delivering it somewhere else. Afterwards the participants answered questions about the mission. Crucially, they were also asked to draw the scene of the package pick-up. Half the participants acted as truth-tellers, the others played the part of liars. Vrij's team reasoned that clever liars would visualise a location they'd been to, other than where the exchange took place, and draw that. They further reasoned that this would mean they'd forget to include the agent who participated in the exchange. This thinking proved shrewd: liars indeed tended not to draw the agent, whereas truth-tellers did. In fact, 80 per cent of truth tellers and 87 per cent of liars could be correctly classified on the basis of this factor alone." [added 7/19/10]

Are repressed memories a cultural phenomenon? - This article discusses an investigation of whether reports of repressed memory could even be found in the historical record before 1800. In fact, the researchers posted a $1000 challenge to anyone who could find any such evidence. The article notes that the $1000 was finally awarded to a 1786 account. [added 4/6/08]

Manipulating images affects memory - [added 3/21/08]

Brain waves distinguish false memories from real ones - [added 12/21/07]

"Recent advances in false memory research" - a good report from the 2007 APS convention [added 11/10/07]

"False beliefs about fattening foods can have healthy consequences" - Here is a popular press story of an article by Loftus and colleagues in which they use a false feedback technique to convince dieters that they don't like strawberry ice cream. [added 1/8/06]

False Memory Syndrome Foundation [added 3/23/04]

"Innocence Lost: The Plea" - PBS Frontline show on the case of preschool workers in North Carolina accused of child sexual abuse

Eyewitness errors - web site associated with PBS' Frontline show "What Jennifer Saw" - interviews, cases and more


Articles, Books, and Book Chapters (available online)


Baron, J. (1998). Judgment misguided: Intuition and error in public decision making. New York: Oxford University Press.

Book Chapters

Ambady, N., Bernieri, F., & Richeson, J. (2000). Towards a Histology of Social Behavior: Judgmental Accuracy from Thin Slices of Behavior. In M. P. Zanna (Ed.), Advances in Experimental Social Psychology, 201-272. New York: Academic Press.

Ambady, N., LaPlante, D., & Johnson, E. (2001). Thin slice judgments as a measure of interpersonal sensitivity. In J. Hall & F. Bernieri (Eds.), Interpersonal Sensitivity: Measurement and Applications. NJ: Erlbaum.

Anderson, C.A. (2007). Belief perseverance. (pp. 109-110). In R. F. Baumeister & K. D. Vohs (Eds.), Encyclopedia of Social Psychology. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Anderson, C.A., Krull, D. S., & Weiner, B. (1996). Explanations: Processes and consequences. In E.T. Higgins & A.W. Kruglanski (Eds.). Social psychology: Handbook of basic principles. (pp.271-296). NY: Guilford Press.

Baron, J. (1996). Do no harm. In D. M. Messick & A. E. Tenbrunsel (Eds.), Codes of conduct: Behavioral research into business ethics, pp. 197-213. New York: Russell Sage Foundation.

Baron, J. (2000). Measuring value tradeoffs: problems and some solutions. In Elke Weber, Jonathan Baron, and Graham Loomes (Eds.), Conflict and Tradeoffs in Decision making: Essays in Honor of Jane Beattie, pp. 231-259. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Baron, J. (2004). Normative models of judgment and decision making. In D. J. Koehler & N. Harvey (Eds.), Blackwell Handbook of Judgment and Decision Making. London: Blackwell.

Bell-Dolan, D., & Anderson, C.A. (1999). Attributional processes: An integration of social and clinical psychology. In R.M. Kowalski & M.R. Leary (Eds.) The social psychology of emotional and behavioral problems: Interfaces of social and clinical psychology. (pp. 37-67). Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.

Buchtel, E. E. & Norenzayan, A. (2009). Thinking across cultures: Implications for dual processes. In J. Evans & K. Frankish, (Eds.), In two minds: Dual processes and beyond. (pp. 217-238). Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Chaiken, S., Giner-Sorolla, R. & Chen, S. (1996). Beyond accuracy: Defense and impression motives in heuristic and systematic information processing. In P.M. Gollwitzer & J.A. Bargh (Eds.), The psychology of action: Linking cognition and motivation to behavior (pp. 553-578). New York: Guilford Press.

Chen, S., & Chaiken, S. (1999). The heuristic-systematic model in its broader context. In S. Chaiken & Y. Trope (Eds.), Dual-process theories in social and cognitive psychology (pp. 73-96). New York: Guilford Press.

Dunn, E. W., Forrin, N. D., & Ashton-James, C. E. (2008). On the excessive rationality of the emotional imagination: A two systems account of affective forecasts and experiences. In K. D. Markman, W. M. P. Klein, & J. A. Suhr (Eds.), The handbook of imagination and mental simulation. New York: Psychology Press.

Elfenbein, H. A., Marsh, A., & Ambady, N. (2002). Emotional intelligence and the recognition of emotion from facial expressions. In L. Feldman Barrett & P. Salovey (Eds.), The Wisdom of Feelings: Psychological Processes in Emotional Intelligence (pp. 37-59). New York: The Guilford Press.

Fitzsimons, G. M. & Bargh, J. A. (2004). Automatic self-regulation. In Baumeister, R. F., & Vohs, K. D. (Eds.), Handbook of Self-Regulation: Research, Theory, and Applications (Pp. 151 - 170). New York: Guilford Press.

Hall, D., & Payne, B. K., (2010). Unconscious attitudes, unconscious influence, and challenges to self-control. In Y. Trope, K. Ochsner, & R. Hassin (Eds.), Social, Cognitive and Neuroscientific Approaches to Self-control. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.

Jost, J.T. (2001). Outgroup favoritism and the theory of system justification: An experimental paradigm for investigating the effects of socio-economic success on stereotype content. In G. Moskowitz (Ed.), Cognitive social psychology: The Princeton symposium on the legacy and future of social cognition (pp. 89-102). Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum.

Jost, J.T., Fitzsimons, G.M., & Kay, A.C. (2004). The ideological animal: A system justification view. In J. Greenberg, S.L. Koole, & T. Pyszczynski (Eds.) Handbook of experimental existential psychology (pp. 263-282). New York: Guilford Press.

Malle, B. F. & Knobe, J. (2001) The Distinction between desire and intention: A folk-conceptual analysis. In B. F. Malle, L. J. Moses, & D. A. Baldwin (Eds.), Intentions and Intentionality: Foundations of Social Cognition. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

Norenzayan, A., Choi, I., & Peng, K. (2007). Cognition and perception. In S. Kitayama & D. Cohen (Eds.), Handbook of Cultural Psychology (pp. 569-594). New York: Guilford Publications.

Payne, B. K., & Cameron, C. D. (2010). Divided minds, divided morals: How implicit social cognition underpins and undermines our sense of social justice. In B. Gawronski, & B. K. Payne (Eds.), Handbook of Implicit Social Cognition: Measurement, Theory, and Applications. New York, NY: Guilford Press.

Payne, B. K., & Gawronski, B. (2010). A history of implicit social cognition: Where is it coming from? Where is it now? Where is it going? In B. Gawronski, & B. K. Payne (Eds.), Handbook of implicit social cognition: Measurement, theory, and applications. New York, NY: Guilford Press.

Payne, B. K., Jacoby, L. L., & Lambert, A. J. (2005). Attitudes as accessibility bias: Dissociating automatic and controlled components. In R. Hassin, J. Bargh, J. & Uleman, (Eds.), The New Unconscious. Oxford.

Payne, B. K., & Stewart, B. D. (2007). Automatic and controlled components of social cognition: A process dissociation approach. In J. A. Bargh (Ed.) Social Psychology and the Unconscious: The Automaticity of Higher Mental Processes. New York, NY: Psychology Press.

Tetlock, P. E. (1998). Social psychology and world politics. In S. Fiske, D. Gilbert, & G. Lindzey (eds.), Handbook of social psychology (4th ed.). New York: McGraw-Hill.

Wegner, D. M. (1988). Stress and mental control. In S. Fisher & J. Reason (Eds.), Handbook of life stress, cognition, and health (pp. 685-699). Chichester: Wiley.

Wegner, D. M. (1992). You can't always think what you want: Problems in the suppression of unwanted thoughts. In M. Zanna (Ed.), Advances in experimental social psychology, (Vol. 25, pp. 193-225). San Diego, CA: Academic Press.

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