The role of alternative hypotheses in the integration of evidence that disconfirms an acquired belief

  • Vallée-Tourangeau F
  • Beynon D
  • James S
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Examined the role of alternative hypotheses (AHs) in the recognition of belief-incongruent evidence and the consequent attribution of probative value to that evidence. Using a contingency judgement and prediction task, Ss monitored multiple predictor-outcome contingencies. The evidence strongly endorsed a positive contingency in a 1st phase but strongly endorsed a negative contingency in a 2nd phase. In Exp 1 the negative evidence was presented, in part, in terms of an alternative contingency involving a new predictor, a new outcome, or no alternatives. The presence of AHs did not influence the recognition of the negative evidence but significantly reduced the Ss' persistence in predicting the outcome in the presence of the predictor. Using the same positive–negative contingencies, Exp 2 replicated this effect but also demonstrated that error in the feedback during the negative phase strengthened the perseverance in outcome predictions even when Ss acknowledged the negative nature of the evidence. Results from these 2 experiments indicate that prior beliefs do not bias the recognition of belief-incongruent evidence but the integration of that evidence is determined by the nature of the AHs available to the reasoner. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2012 APA, all rights reserved)

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