Study Guide For the empirical studies: be able to explain, with specific details, the experimental manipulation (this will be the instructions/materials the participants received) for each study (there may be more than one in each article). Be able to explain what those studies found (what were the “results”—may be clearer in the discussion) – again, being specific (ex: don’t just say they were less biased, say what they were less biased about).Be able to explain specific research findings for the color blind and multicultural approaches (what differences did research find in people’s behavior/what works and what problems arise)?What are the sources of antidiscrimination law (hint: the article identifies five)?Can you give an example of a specific law or act?What are the two “forms of justice” and how do they differ, according to the reading?Be able to explain illusions/biases associated with the two heuristics from the cognition reading.Be able to explain the threat-based approach to prejudice model (the threat, the cue, etc.)Be able to discuss what the Rushton article claims and what kind of evidence it uses.Jourotl of Pcnorality ind Social Psychology
1984 Vol 47. No- 6. 1231-1243
Copyntht I9M by the
Amcncan Psychological A^™TI«M» Inc.
Considering the Opposite: A Corrective Strategy
for Social Judgment
Charles G. Lord
Mark R. Le’pper
Princeton University
Stanford University
Elizabeth Preston
Princeton University
It is proposed that several biases in social judgment result from a failure—first
noted by Francis Bacon—to consider possibilities at odds with beliefs and
perceptions of the moment. Individuals who are induced to consider the opposite.
therefore, should display less bias in social judgment. In two separate but
conceptually parallel experiments, this reasoning was applied to two domains—
biased assimilation of new evidence on social issues and biased hypothesis testing
of personality impressions. Subjects were induced to consider the opposite in two
ways: through explicit instructions to do so and through stimulus materials that
made opposite possibilities more salient. In both experiments the induction of a
consider-the-opposite strategy had greater corrective effect than more demandladen alternative instructions to be as fair and unbiased as possible. The results
are viewed as consistent with previous research on perseverance, hindsight, and
logical problem solving, and are thought to suggest an effective method of
retraining social judgment.
” ‘I beseech ye in the bowels of Christ,
think that ye may be mistaken.’ I should like
to have that written over the portals of every
church, every school, and every courthouse,
and, may I say, of every legislative body in
the United States.” Thus spoke Judge Learned
Hand in 1951, so taken was he with the
wisdom of Oliver Cromwell’s 1650 plea to
the Church of Scotland. The criticism that
human decision makers do not adequately
consider alternative possibilities, especially
those directly at odds with their beliefs and
perceptions of the moment, remains as viable
today as it was in Cromwell’s time. In fact,
modern psychology has provided substantial
empirical evidence to buttress the argument
that our beliefs pervasively color and bias our
response to subsequent information, evidence,
or argumentation (e.g., Allport, 1954; Asch,
1946; Kahneman, Slovic, & Tversky, 1982;
This research was supported in part by National
Institute of Mental Health Grant MH-36093 to Mark
R. Lepper and Lee Ross. We thank Lee Ross for comments
on earlier drafts and Mark Snyder for making available
stimulus materials for Experiment 2.
Requests for reprints should be sent to Charles Lord,
Department of Psychology, Princeton University, Princeton, New Jersey 08540.
Nisbett & Ross, 1980; Ross & Lepper, 1980;
Snyder, 1981).
Cromwell’s plea is, of course, a very general
admonition that could be interpreted as an
exhortation to try harder—a caution that
would imply a motivational account of human
fallibility and a largely motivational prescription for more rational judgment. Raise the
stakes, as the United States did in Vietnam,
and the other side will begin to view the issue
more rationally (Tuchman, 1984). The success
of such appeals in history and in current
research, however, suggests that merely trying
harder may be less than a foolproof debiasing
strategy (cf. Kahneman et al., 1982; Nisbett
& Ross, 1980).
We believe that there are also more specific
and more cognitive elements involved in this
characteristic failure to consider the opposite
and that these processes may underlie many
attributional and judgmental errors. In particular, we would argue, people typically seem
oblivious to the fact that the way they process
information may itself influence their judgments and that the questions they ask may
determine the answers they receive. Thus any
inducement for decision makers to consider
that matters might be other than what they
seem, especially an inducement to consider
possibilities diametrically opposed to one’s
assumptions, would have an ameliorative effect on judgmental bias. Judge Hand’s suggestion, in short, might be taken seriously by
those interested in promoting more rational
social judgment.
Such a strategy might be implemented in
several ways. One general approach might
involve direct instructions to consider various
hypothetical and opposite possibilities; for
example, when a professor asks a new graduate student to consider what the data from
a proposed experiment might mean if the
expected results were reversed. This approach
is direct, in that the professor describes the
tendency to overlook alternative data patterns
and explicitly instructs the student to imagine
these outcomes. A second general approach
might be to alter the task or eliciting stimulus
conditions in such a way as to make opposite
possibilities more salient; for example, when
the professor merely asks the student to read
a paper whose conclusions suggest an experimental outcome opposite to that expected
by the student who has read only one side of
a theoretical dispute. This approach is indirect, in that the professor neither describes
the tendency to ignore alternative data patterns nor instructs the student to adopt any
particular cognitive strategy, but instead relies
on the recommended paper to render opposite
possibilities more accessible. In the present
studies, we sought to induce consideration of
opposite possibilities in two ways: directly,
through explicit instructions, and indirectly,
through stimulus salience and increased accessibility. Both the direct and the indirect
approaches were compared with an alternative
manipulation that reflected the different assumption that biased judges are insufficiently
Experiment 1
Biased assimilation of new evidence serves
as a good example of what can happen when
opposite possibilities are overlooked. Those
who hold strong beliefs about an issue are
apt to examine relevant evidence in a biased
manner, by accepting confirming evidence at
face value and subjecting disconnrming evidence to highly critical evaluation (Lord et
al., 1979). As a result, partisans on both sides
of an issue may adopt more extreme attitudes
following exposure to mixed evidence, some
of it supporting one side of an issue and
some the other.
Lord et al. (1979) asked subjects who
either supported or opposed capital punishment to read two purported studies, one
seemingly confirming and one seemingly disconfirming the subject’s beliefs about the
deterrent efficacy of the death penalty. Both
proponents and opponents of capital punishment rated those procedures that produced
confirming results as methodologically superior to those that produced disconfirming
results, and both used this perceived disparity
in the quality of evidence on the two sides of
the issue as justification for adopting more
polarized attitudes. The researchers concluded
that attempts to furnish objective evidence
on burning social issues “will frequently fuel
rather than calm the fires of debate” (1979,
p. 2108).
For those who value social science evidence
on complex and important social issues, the
way in which Lord et al.’s (1979) subjects
evaluated new evidence seems less than optimal. We ought, therefore, to be interested
in ways to inhibit an uncritical biased assimilation of new evidence to existing beliefs and
attitudes. The appropriate method of correcIn order to test the generality of considering tion, however, depends on where one believes
the opposite as a debiasing strategy, we applied the bias to lie. One possibility is that the
it to two different domains of social judgment: subjects in Lord et al.’s (1979) study were
biased assimilation of new evidence (Lord, not sufficiently motivated to be honest, acRoss, & Lepper, 1979) and biased hypothesis curate, and unbiased and were not prepared
testing (Snyder & Swann, 1978). We chose to suspend judgment until they could give
these two domains deliberately because they equal consideration to both sides, as jurors
seemed more involving than many statistical in the legal setting and elected representatives
or mathematical problems such as probability in the legislative setting are often reminded
or covariation estimation (Jennings, Amabile, to do. The remedy suggested by this analysis
& Ross, 1982; Kahneman & Tversky, 1972; is to instruct and educate prospective deci1973) and thus presumably more resistant to sion makers in the exercise of impartiality. A
second possibility is suggested by our earlier
analysis. Thus Lord et al.’s (1979) subjects
may have responded to a study’s methodology
on the basis of its stated result, without
considering the possibility that the same
methodology might have produced an opposite conclusion. The remedy suggested by this
analysis is to promote an explicit consideration of alternative possibilities, especially those
possible outcomes that are diametrically opposed to those expected or perceived. Experiment 1 tested both the “be unbiased” and
the “consider-the-opposite” remedies in a
replication of Lord et al.’s (1979) study on
biased assimilation of new evidence.
One hundred twenty Stanford University undergraduates participated in partial fulfillment of a course requirement Twenty proponents and twenty opponents of capital
punishment received each of three types of instructions.
In a replication condition we used the subject selection
criteria, experimental materials, and procedure described
in greater detail by Lord et al. (1979). We selected as
subjects students who on an earlier questionnaire had
either favored capital punishment and believed that it
deterred potential murderers (proponents) or opposed
capital punishment and believed that it did not deter
potential murderers (opponents). In a 1-hr laboratory
session, each student received four pieces of information:
first, a one-sentence summary of a purported empirical
result demonstrating the death penalty’s effectiveness or
ineffectiveness in lowering murder rates; second, a twopage description of the methodology that produced this
result; third, a one-sentence summary of an empirical
result opposite to that found in the first study; fourth, a
two-page description of the methodology that produced
this second result. After reading each of the four pieces
of information, subjects indicated how much and in what
direction their attitudes toward capital punishment and
their beliefs about its deterrent efficacy had changed,
both as a result of that piece of information alone and
cumulatively. In addition, after reading each of the twopage descriptions, subjects rated how well done (from
– 8 = very poorly done to 8 = very well done) and how
convincing (from —8 = completely unconvincing to 8 =
completely convincing) the described study seemed as
evidence on the issue. The overall design was counterbalanced with respect to subjects’ initial attitudes, order
of confirming versus discontinuing information, and
which methodology was said to have produced which
In a be-unbiased condition we added to the replication
instructions a warning that “the particular studies you
select1 may provide evidence on the same side of this
issue in both cases, or they may provide evidence on
different sides of the issue,” and continued:
We would like you to be as objective and unbiased as
possible in evaluating the studies you read. You might
consider yourself to be in the same role as a judge or
juror asked to weigh all of the evidence in a fair and
impartial manner.”
In a consider-the-opposite condition we described the
process by which biased assimilation is thought to occur
(e.g., that strengths and weaknesses may be differentially
salient), and recommended the following:
Ask yourself at each step whether you would have
made the same high or low evaluations had exactly the
same study produced results on the other side of the
One way of characterizing the difference between the
be-unbiased and consider-the-opposite instructions is that
subjects in the former condition were told, “Here’s what
can happen. Don’t let it happen to you,” whereas subjects
in the latter condition were told, “Here’s how it happens
and what you can do about it.” Consider-the-opposite
instructions were thus analogous to Ross, Lepper, and
Hubbard’s (197S) successful technique of overcoming
perseverance by describing how it happens and reminding
subjects that a different experimental experience might
have brought different supporting cognitions to mind.
Merely describing a bias, at least in an involving domain,
has no ameliorative effect (Fischhoff, 1977, 1982), so the
operative component of consider-the-opposite instructions
was assumed to be the recommended strategy.
Results and Discussion
Evaluations. Lord et al. (1979) found
preferential evaluations of how well done and
how convincing the confirming and disconfirming studies seemed and subsequent attitude polarization. We examined the same
measures in order to test whether the three
different types of instructions had different
effects. More specifically, we conducted a 3 X
2 (Condition: Replication, Be-Unbiased,
Consider-the-Opposite X Initial Attitude:
Proponent, Opponent) analysis of variance
(ANOVA) of differences between subjects’ evaluations of the antideterrence and prodeterrence studies. The results are presented in
Table 1.
As shown by the pattern of difference
scores in Table 1, instructions interacted with
initial attitude in determining evaluations of
how well done the studies were, ^ 2 , 114) =
4.21, p< .05. Initial attitude made a difference for students who received the replication instructions, fl, 114) = 6.65, p < .05, proponents finding the prodeterrence study better done than the antideterrence study (M = 1.6) and opponentsfindingthe prodeterrence study worse done (M = —1.1). Initial attitude also made a difference for students who received 1 As described in Lord et al. (1979, p. 2100), subjects "chose" the two studies that they were to read from a set of 10 that were in reality identical. 1234 C. LORD, M. LEPPER, AND E. PRESTON Table 1 Mean Evaluations of Prodeterrence and Aniideterrence Studies by Proponents and Opponents of Capital Punishment as a Function of Instructions in Experiment 1 How well done? Instructions How convincing? Study Proponents Opponents Proponents Opponents Replication Prodeterrencc Antideterrence Difference .8 -.8 1.6 -.6 .5 -1.1 1.5 -1.4 2.9 -.8 .2 -1.0 Be-unbiased Prodeterrence Antideterrence Difference 1.7 -.7 2.4 -1.6 .1 -1.7 1.6 -1.6 3.2 -2.5 1.0 -3.5 Consider-the-opposite Prodeterrence Antideterrence Difference -.3 -.6 .3 .4 -.1 .5 .8 -.2 1.0 .2 .4 -.2 Note. Positive difference scores indicate prodeterrence study better done/more convincing; negative difference scores indicate antideterrence study better done/more convincing. the be-unbiased instructions, f{, 114) = 15.51, p < .01, proponents finding the prodeterrence study better done (M - 2.4) and opponents finding the prodeterrence study worse done (M = — 1.7). Initial attitude, however, did not affect the evaluations of students who received consider-the-opposite instructions, F\, 114) < 1. To compare the effects of the three types of instructions directly, we conducted the same 3 X 2 analysis for difference scores that reflected preference for attitude-confirming evidence (pro- minus anti- for proponents; anti- minus pro- for opponents). According to a Newman-Keuls test following this analysis, consider-the-opposite instructions produced significantly less attitude-congruent evaluations than either replication or be-unbiased instructions, which did not differ (p < .05). As also shown in Table 1, instructions interacted with initial attitude in determining evaluations of how convincing the studies seemed as evidence on the issue of capital punishnment, F[2, 114) = 3.95, p < .05. On this measure as well, initial attitude made a difference for students who received the replication instructions, F{, 114) = 8.13, p < .01, proponents finding the prodeterrence study more convincing than the antideterrence study (M = 2.9) and opponents finding the prodeterrence study less convincing (M = — 1.0). Initial attitude also made a difference for students who received the be-unbiased instructions, J=X1, 114) = 23.76, p < .01, proponentsfindingthe prodeterrence study more convincing (M = 3.2) and opponents finding the prodeterrence study less convincing (M = —3.5). Initial attitude, however, did not affect the evaluations of students who received consider-the-opposite instructions, F{1, 114) < 1. As with the well-done measure, we conducted the same 3 X 2 analysis for difference scores that reflected a tendency to find attitudecongruent evidence more convincing than attitude-incongruent evidence. According to a Newman-Keuls test following this analysis, consider-the-opposite instructions produced less attitude-congruent evaluations than beunbiased instructions, with neither differing significantly from replication instructions, (p < .05). Attitude polarization. The striking consequence of subjects' differential evaluations of confirmatory versus disconfirmatory research, Lord et al. (1979) demonstrated, was increased polarization of partisans1 attitudes toward capital punishment following exposure to both positive and negative results. Thus, we also examined reported attitude changes from the experiment's start to its finish in subjects' beliefs about the death penalty's deterrent efficacy and in their attitudes on capital punishment. The primary question was whether instructions to consider the opposite would produce not only less biased evaluations of the relevant evidence but also less subsequent belief and attitude polarization. Figure 1 displays the results graphically as mean deviations from a central line that represents no attitude change. The graph 1235 CONSIDERING THE OPPOSITE collapses across subjects who read a prodeterrence study first and an antideterrence study second and those who read the same studies in the other order, and depicts only attitude change following the second (and last) study, regardless of which it was. Positive changes indicate that the net result of reading both studies was a shift toward greater belief in the death penalty's deterrent efficacy or a more positive attitude toward capital punishment; negative changes indicate that the net result of reading both studies was a shift toward less belief in the death penalty's deterrent efficacy or a more negative attitude toward capital punishment. As may be seen in the top panel of the figure, after reading the summary and description of both' studies, subjects in the Proponents Opponents REPLICATION BE UNBIASED CONSIDER THE OPPOSITE Figure 1. Mean changes in beliefs and attitudes in response to prodeterrence and antideterrence studies by proponents and/Opponents as a function of instructions in Experiment 1. Belief change ordinate reflects increased (positive numbers) or decreased (negative numbers) belief that the death penalty deters potential murderers. Atthude change ordinate similarly reflects more or less favorable attitude toward capital punishment. / 1236 C. LORD, M. LEPPER, AND E. PRESTON replication condition reported that they had become more extreme in their beliefs about deterrent efficacy [proponents .9, opponents -3.7; r(39) = 4.93, p < .001], as did subjects admonished to be unbiased [proponents 2.3, opponents -2.4; f(39) = 4.04, p < .001], but subjects asked to consider the opposite did not [proponents - . 1 , opponents -.4; t{39) < 1]. This pattern of responses produced a significant Instructions X Initial Attitude interaction, F{2, 114) = 8.39, p < .01. According to a Newman-Keuls test, consider-theopposite instructions produced significantly less belief polarization on the deterrent efficacy question than either replication or beunbiased instructions, which did not differ (p Purchase answer to see full attachment

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