Academic journal article Memory & Cognition

In Conflict with Ourselves? an Investigation of Heuristic and Analytic Processes in Decision Making

Academic journal article Memory & Cognition

In Conflict with Ourselves? an Investigation of Heuristic and Analytic Processes in Decision Making

Article excerpt

Many theorists propose two types of processing: heuristic and analytic. In conflict tasks, in which these processing types lead to opposing responses, giving the analytic response may require both detection and resolution of the conflict. The ratio bias task, in which people tend to treat larger numbered ratios (e.g., 20/100) as indicating a higher likelihood of winning than do equivalent smaller numbered ratios (e.g., 2/10), is considered to induce such a conflict. Experiment 1 showed response time differences associated with conflict detection, resolution, and the amount of conflict induced. The conflict detection and resolution effects were replicated in Experiment 2 and were not affected by decreasing the influence of the heuristic response or decreasing the capacity to make the analytic response. The results are consistent with dual-process accounts, but a single-process account in which quantitative, rather than qualitative, differences in processing are assumed fares equally well in explaining the data.

Dual-process theories propose two distinct types of reasoning: heuristic processing, which is fast and automatic and does not tax cognitive resources, and analytic processing, which is slow, rule based, and dependent on working memory capacity (Evans, 2006). This basic heuristic/analytic distinction is common across many different theories but is described in a variety of ways, such as experiential/rational (Denes-Raj & Epstein, 1994; Kirkpatrick & Epstein, 1992), associative/rule-based (Sloman, 1996), or simply System 1/System 2 (Evans, 2008; Stanovich & West, 2000). A keenly debated but unresolved issue for dual-process theories is how processes cooperate, compete, or, more generally, exchange information in order to determine a given response (Evans, 2007, 2008; Mitchell, DeHouwer, & Lovibond, 2009; Newell, 2009). An appealing recent line of research has suggested that taking a closer look at the proposed conflict between heuristic and analytic processing can shed light on how this interaction occurs (e.g., De Neys & Glumicic, 2008). The present study extended this line of research by examining a simple task that has often been interpreted as creating a conflict between heuristic and analytic responses: the ratio bias task. The research is novel in that it generalizes empirical tests of the processes underlying the proposed conflict to a new reasoning task and uses new methods of measurement in that task (processing speed). Furthermore, although distinguishing between dual-process and single-process models was not a direct aim of the research, the data highlight that patterns of responding used as evidence of conflict between processes can also be interpreted as reflecting a single process (e.g., Hammond, 1996; Osman, 2004).

Conflict Between Types of Reasoning

Whether focused on personality differences (e.g., Denes- Raj & Epstein, 1994), cognitive ability (e.g., Stanovich & West, 1998), or the specific operation of different systems (e.g., Sloman, 1996), dual-process researchers have tested their predictions by using the idea that two types of reasoning can conflict in certain situations. For example, in the classic base rate neglect problems (Kahneman & Tversky, 1973), participants read about a sample of people in which most belong to one category (e.g., 995 women) but some belong to another (e.g., 5 men). When the description of a randomly drawn person from the sample is consistent with the stereotype of the less likely category (men), people often ignore the small base rate (5/1,000) and say that the person is most likely to be from this category. To give the normatively correct response (i.e., the statistically most likely category: women), instead of the compelling heuristic response, all of the available information must be utilized, presumably through the use of analytic processing (Gigerenzer, Hell, & Blank, 1988). Since the two types of reasoning lead to different responses and people have been shown to give either response, heuristic and analytic processing have been conceptualized as being in conflict with each other. …

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