Maya Bar-Hillel

Maya Bar-Hillel
Hebrew University of Jerusalem | HUJI · Center for the Study of Rationality

Professor

About

88
Publications
56,624
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4,312
Citations
Citations since 2017
8 Research Items
1158 Citations
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2017201820192020202120222023050100150200
2017201820192020202120222023050100150200

Publications

Publications (88)
Article
A stumper is a riddle whose solution is typically so elusive that it does not come to mind, at least initially—leaving the responder stumped. Stumpers work by eliciting a (typically visual) representation of the narrative, in which the solution is not to be found. In order to solve the stumper, the blocking representation must be changed, which doe...
Article
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Bar-Hillel, Noah and Frederick (2018) studied a class of riddles they called stumpers, which have simple, but curiously elusive, solutions. A canonical example is: "Andy is Bobbie's brother, but Bobbie is not Andy's brother. How come?" Though not discussed there, we found that the ability to solve stumpers correlates significantly with performance...
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A multi-item questionnaire concerning lay people's attitudes toward organ procurement without consent from executed prisoners was given to several hundred respondents. The items ranged from all-out condemnation (“It is tantamount to murder”) to enthusiasm (“It is great to have this organ supply”). Overall, we found two guiding principles upheld by...
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Riddles can teach us psychology when we stop to consider the psychological principles that make them “work”. This paper studies a particular class of riddles that we call stumpers, and provides analysis of the various principles (some familiar, some novel) that inhibit most people from finding the correct solution – or any solution – even though th...
Presentation
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Talk delivered at the opening of SPUDM 26, Haifa, Israel
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From drop-down computer menus to department-store aisles, people in everyday life often choose from simultaneous displays of products or options. Studies of position effects in such choices show seemingly inconsistent results. For example, in restaurant choice, items enjoy an advantage when placed at the beginning or end of the menu listings, but i...
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Recent research in psychology, especially that called "The New Unconscious", is discovering strange and unintuitive phenomena, some of which raise interesting challenges for the law. This paper discusses some of these challenges. For example, if much of our mental life occurs out of our awareness and control, and yet is subject to easy external man...
Data
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Miller and Sanjurjo (2015) suggest that many analyses of the hot hand and the gambler’s fallacies are subject to a bias. The purpose of this note is to describe our understanding of their main point in terms we hope are simpler and more accessible to non-mathematicians than is the original.
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When asked to mentally simulate coin tosses, people generate sequences that differ systematically from those generated by fair coins. It has been rarely noted that this divergence is apparent already in the very 1st mental toss. Analysis of several existing data sets reveals that about 80% of respondents start their sequence with Heads. We attribut...
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Evidence, anecdotal and scientific, suggests that people treat (or are affected by) products of prestigious sources differently than those of less prestigious, or of anonymous, sources. The ``products'' which are the focus of the present study are poems, and the ``sources'' are the poets. We explore the manner in which the poet's name affects the e...
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``Very small but cumulated decreases in food intake may be sufficient to have significant effects, even erasing obesity over a period of years'' (Rozin et al., 2011). In two studies, one a lab study and the other a real-world study, we examine the effect of manipulating the position of different foods on a restaurant menu. Items placed at the begin...
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Since its inception, psychology has studied position effects. But the position was a temporal one in sequential presentation, and the dependent variables related to memory and learning. This paper attempts to survey position effects when position is spatial (namely, position=location), all stimuli are presented simultaneously, and the dependent var...
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Gambling frequencies on single numbers in real casino roulette were displayed in a contour map. This resulted not only in a confirmation that gamblers are subject to middle bias, but also to accessibility effects. The figure allowed us to infer the location of the roulette wheel and croupier from the gambling data, as well as infer bounds on the di...
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This research illustrates the power of reputation, such as that embodied in brand names, demonstrating that names can enhance objective product efficacy. Study participants facing a glaring light were asked to read printed words as accurately and as quickly as they could, receiving compensation proportional to their performance. Those wearing sungl...
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``Waste not want not'' expresses our culture's aversion to waste. ``I could have gotten the same thing for less'' is a sentiment that can diminish pleasure in a transaction. We study people's willingness to ``pay'' to avoid this spoiler. In one scenario, participants imagined they were looking for a rental apartment, and had bought a subscription t...
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It has been noted and demonstrated that people are reluctant to make changes in their current state (called the status quo bias, Samuelson & Zeckhauser, 1988), and to trade objects they own (called the endowment effect, Thaler, 1980). This reluctance has been explained by a combination of loss aversion and reference dependence which causes the stat...
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Rutherford (2010) criticizes the way some people have analyzed the 2-children problem, claiming (correctly) that slight nuances in the problem's formulation can change the correct answer. However, his own data demonstrate that even when there is a unique correct answer, participants give intuitive answers that differ from it systematically — replic...
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Many factors contribute to status quo perseverance, some justifiable, some not. We focus on an advantage accruing to a policy from just calling it status quo, which is that the mere label makes it look better. When comparing pros and cons of competing policies, labeling one status quo sets it up as the reference point with respect to which pros and...
Article
Full-text available
Evidence, both anecdotal and scientific, suggests that people treat (or are affected by) products of prestigious sources differently than those of less prestigious or anonymous sources. The "products" which are the focus of the present study are poems, and the "sources" are the poets. We explore the manner in which the poet's name affects the exper...
Article
Full-text available
"Waste not want not" expresses our culture's aversion to waste. "I could have gotten the same thing for less" is a sentiment that can diminish pleasure in a transaction. We study people's willingness to "pay" to avoid this spoiler. In one scenario, participants imagined they were looking for a rental apartment, and had bought a subscription to an a...
Article
Full-text available
Much of human psychology takes place out of awareness. In the past few decades, psychologists have begun to study the working of the unconscious using new methodologies. The unconscious terrain is very different from the terrain that people have conscious access to and control over. This paper affords a peek into some of these strange processes, an...
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Scientists try to find out the truth about our world. Judges in a court of law try to find out the truth about the target events in the indictment. What are the similarities, and what are the differences, in the procedures that govern the search for truth in these two systems? In particular, why are quantitative tools the hallmark of science, where...
Article
Bar-Hillel and Budescu (1995) failed to find a desirability bias in probability estimation. The World Cup soccer tournament provided an opportunity to revisit the phenomenon in a context in which desirability biases are notoriously rampant. Participants estimated the probabilities of various teams' winning their upcoming games. They were promised m...
Chapter
Amos Tversky is best known for his pathbreaking work, along with Daniel Kahneman, on heuristics and biases in judgment under uncertainty, and for prospect theory, a theory of decision under uncertainty. His research showed that people are ‘irrational’, namely, their judgments and decisions deviate in systematic ways from normative dictates.
Article
Multiple-choice tests are often scored by formulas under which the respondent's expected score for an item is the same whether he or she omits it or guesses at random. Typically, these formulas are accompanied by instructions that discourage guessing. In this article, we look at test taking from the normative and descriptive perspectives of judgmen...
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We offer a case-study in irrationality, showing that even in a high stakes context, intelligent and well trained professionals may adopt dominated practices. In multiple-choice tests one cannot distinguish lucky guesses from answers based on knowledge. Test-makers have dealt with this problem by lowering the incentive to guess, through penalizing e...
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A Nobel Prize in Economics was given to the psychologist Daniel Kahneman for his joint research with the late psychologist Amos Tversky on decision making under uncertainty and on subjective judgments of uncertainty. The two proposed Prospect Theory as a descriptive alternative to Utility Theory, the reigning normative theory of choice under uncert...
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In this article, the authors show that test makers and test takers have a strong and systematic tendency for hiding correct answers—or, respectively, for seeking them—in middle positions. In single, isolated questions, both prefer middle positions to extreme ones in a ratio of up to 3 or 4 to 1. Because test makers routinely, deliberately, and exce...
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Polygraph test results are by and large ruled inadmissible evidence in criminal courts in the US, Canada, and Israel. This is well-conceived with regard to the dominant technique of polygraph interrogation, known as the Control Question Technique (CQT), because it indeed does not meet the required standards for admissible scientific evidence. Howev...
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The producers of the SAT balance answer keys rather than randomizing them. Whereas randomization yields keys that are balanced only on average, balancing assures this in every subtest: Balancing is a well-kept trade secret, and there is no evidence of awareness that it is exploitable. However, balancing leaves identifiable traces on answer keys. We...
Article
A professor of history at The Hebrew University noted that his students were often surprised to learn that some event in America happened at about the same time as another in Europe, because the American event seemed to them to have happened more recently. We confirmed the validity, of this anecdotal observation experimentally, and offer an explana...
Article
Full-text available
The producers of the SAT balance answer keys rather than ran-domizing them. Whereas randomization yields keys that are balanced only on average, balancing assures this in every subtest. Balancing is a well-kept trade secret, and there is no evidence of awareness that it is exploitable. However, balancing leaves identifiable traces on answer keys. W...
Article
A paper of Witztum, Rips and Rosenberg in this journal in 1994 made the extraordinary claim that the Hebrew text of the Book of Genesis encodes events which did not occur until millennia after the text was written. In reply, we argue that Witztum, Rips and Rosenberg's case is fatally defective, indeed that their result merely reflects on the choice...
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A paper of Witztum, Rips and Rosenberg in this journal in 1994 made the extraordinary claim that the Hebrew text of the Book of Genesis encodes events which did not occur until millennia after the text was written. In reply, we argue that Witztum, Rips and Rosenberg’s case is fatally defective, indeed that their result merely reflects on the choice...
Article
Expert clinicians were given batteries of psychodiagnostic test results (Rorschach, TAT, Draw-A-Person, Bender-Gestalt, Wechsler) to analyze. For half, a battery came along with a suggestion that the person suÄers from Borderline Personality disorder, and for half, that battery was accompanied by a suggestion that he suÄers from Paranoid Personalit...
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remained hidden. Now it has been unlocked by computer, and it may reveal our future. " Using this code, the author, a self-described "skeptical secu-lar reporter" named Michael Drosnin, discovered what he took to be a predic-tion of the assassination of the late Yitzhak Rabin, then prime minister of Israel. Lest skeptics dismiss this claim out of h...
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Students were given lottery tickets and then were asked to exchange their ticket for another one, plus a small monetary incentive. Less than 50% agreed. In contrast, when given pens, and the same exchange offer, over 90% agreed. Experimental control rules out that the reluctance to exchange lottery tickets results from (1) overestimation of the win...
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We define a desirability effect as the inflation of the judged probability of desirable events or the diminution of the judged probability of undersirable events. A series of studies of this effect are reported. In the first four experiments, subjects were presented with visual stimuli (a grid matrix in two colours, or a jar containing beads in two...
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One event cannot be more probable than another that includes it. Judging P(A & B) to be higher than P(A) has been called the conjunction fallacy. This study examined a disjunction fallacy. Ss received brief case descriptions and ordered 7 categories according to 1 of 4 criteria: (1) probability of membership, (2) willingness to bet on membership, (...
Chapter
Justice, equity, and fairness are central concerns of everyday life, whether we are assessing the fairness of individual acts, social programmes, or institutional policies. This book explores how the distribution of costs and benefits determine our intuition about fairness and why individual behaviour sometimes deviates from normative theories of j...
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S. L. Martin and W. Terris (see record 1991-28965-001) recently attributed to a number of psychologists a concept they called the false-positive argument (FPA), according to which a test should not be used if an individual who fails is more likely to be qualified than unqualified, and they attempted to clarify the conditions under which the FPA ma...
Article
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S. L. Martin and W. Terris (see record 1991-28965-001) recently attributed to a number of psychologists a concept they called the false-positive argument (FPA), according to which a test should not be used if an individual who fails is more likely to be qualified than unqualified, and they attempted to clarify the conditions under which the FPA may...
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Psychologists have studied people's intuitive notions of randomness by two kinds of tasks: judgment tasks (e.g., “is this series like a coin?” or “which of these series is most like a coin?”), and production tasks (e.g., “produce a series like a coin”). People's notion of randomness is biased in that they see clumps or streaks in truly random serie...
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AlthoughP(A&B|X) can never exceedP(A|X) (the conjunction rule), it is possible forP(X|A&B) to exceedP(X|A). Hence, people who rankA&B as more probable thanA are not necessarily violating any normative rule if the ranking is done in terms of the probability of these events to yield an eventX. Wolford, Taylor, and Beck (1990) have argued that this in...
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Recently, Nathan (1986) criticized Bar-Hillel and Falk's (1982) analysis of some classical probability puzzles on the grounds that they wrongheadedly applied mathematics to the solving of problems suffering from "ambiguous informalities". Nathan's prescription for solving such problems boils down to assuring in advance that they are uniquely and fo...
Chapter
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The theme of this talk is an exploration of the relationship between decision-making and law, perceived as that existing between an observation point and an observation. This places it somewhere in the domain of philosophy of science. The presentation will rely on the metaphor of a grid The idea is borrowed from Tversky and Kahneman (1986).
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Transitivity is a compelling requirement of rational choice, and a transitivity axiom is included in all classical theories of both individual and group choice. Nonetheless, choice contexts exist in which choice might well be systematically intransitive. Moreover, this can occur even when the context is transparent, and the decision maker is reflec...
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Tested the validity of graphological predictions in 2 empirical studies. In Study 1, graphologists rated 80 primarily 19–27 yr old bank employees on several job relevant traits, based on handwritten biographies. The scripts were also rated on the same traits by a clinical psychologist with no knowledge of graphology. The criterion was the ratings o...
Article
The present article examines two methods of polygraph-assisted lie detection: the Control Question Technique (CQT) and the Guilty Knowledge Technique (GKT). It presents the rationale for both, arguing that only the latter is well grounded in psychological theory. It then surveys the empirical support for claims of the polygraph's ability to detect...
Article
A recurrent finding of judgment research is that people often ignore important kinds of information, such as the base rate of some occurrence. Focusing techniques attempt to improve judgment in inferential problems by helping people to attend to all available information. One such technique is Subjective Sensitivity Analysis, which requires people...
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A common judgmental task involves predicting the category membership of an individual on the basis of information specific to that individual and background information regarding the base rate of different categories. According to statistical theory, predictions may deviate from base rates only to the extent that the individuating information is di...
Article
This paper presents and analyzes four actual court cases where an explicit probability model was used as evidence or to quantify the impact of some evidence in the courtroom. Through these cases, an attempt is made to understand some of the possibilities and risks attendant upon quantitative probabilistic analysis in legal factfinding. Although we...
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An attempt is made to evaluate the performance of several distribution mechanisms, using experimental data on ethical judgements. Among the mechanisms examined are the competitive equilibrium with equal incomes, utilitarianism, the maximin, and several mechanisms based on bargaining. Also studied is the extent to which differences in needs, in tast...
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Representativeness is the name given to the heuristic people often employ when they judge the probability of a sample by how well it represents certain salient features of the population from which it was drawn. The representativeness heuristic has also been used to account for how people judge the probability that a given population is the source...
Chapter
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This chapter focuses on the base rate fallacy controversy. The importance of considering base rates before making causal attributions is one that is instilled in all humans in the course of training in experimental methodology. But base rates play an important role in other inferential formats too, especially in Bayesian ones. There is evidence apl...
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Rebuts L. Lopes's (see record 1982-07078-001) normative objections to expected utility theory and analyzes the "fallacy of large numbers," discussed by P. A. Samuelson (1963), from both mathematical and psychological standpoints. It is suggested that values in risky decisions are gains and losses defined relative to some reference point. Because t...
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This is a brief commentary on J.L. Cohen: Can human irrationality be experimentally demonstrated?
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Reexamined data from 7 field studies to estimate the discriminability of the control questions technique (CQT) in real-life situations. A signal detection model was applied, and an attempt was made to derive the value system of the polygraphers who participated. It was demonstrated that under an assumption of rationality, the examiners tended to va...
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The concepts of supportive evidence and of relevant evidence seem very closely related to each other. Supportive evidence is clearly always relevant as well. But must relevant evidence be defined as evidence which is either supportive or weakeking? In an explicit or implicit manner, this is indeed the position of many philosophers. The paradox of i...
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A family of notorious teasers in probability is discussed. All ask for the probability that the objects of a certain pair both have some property when information exists that at least one of them does. These problems should be solved using conditional probabilities, but cause difficulties in characterizing the conditioning event appropriately. In p...
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M. Manis et al (see record 1981-07963-001) found that base rates had a clear effect on discrete predictions and a smaller effect on the confidence that Ss attached to those predictions. As a result, the findings of Manis et al can be reinterpreted in a way that makes them compatible with previous findings. In this light, their study emerges as a c...
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In 3 experiments, Ss were 1,794 high school students, university students, Israeli army recruits, and Americans studying Hebrew. When asked to judge which of 2 observations was more likely to be sampled from a given bell-shaped distribution, Ss correctly judged the more extreme to be less likely. When asked to judge which of 2 samples was more like...
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The base-rate fallacy is people's tendency to ignore base rates in favor of, e.g., individuating information (when such is available), rather than integrate the two. This tendency has important implications for understanding judgment phenomena in many clinical, legal, and social-psychological settings. An explanation of this phenomenon is offered,...
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D. Kahneman and A. Tversky (Cognitive Psychology, 1972, 3, 430–454) claimed that “the notion that sampling variance decreases in proportion to sample size is apparently not part of man's repertoire of intuitions.” This study presents a series of experiments showing that it is possible to elicit judgments indicating that perceived sample accuracy in...
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Subjects were shown triples of bar graphs, Left, Middle, and Right. One group judged whether L or R was more similar to M. Two other groups were told that the bar graphs described trinomial distributions. Of these groups, one was asked to judge whether sample L or sample R is more likely to emerge from population M. The other group judged whether p...
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Subjects were requested to choose between gambles, where the outcome of one gamble depended on a single elementary event, and the other depended on an event compounded of a series of such elementary events. The data supported the hypothesis that the subjective probability of a compound event is systematically biased in the direction of the probabil...
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This paper attempts to provide a solution to the Newcomb Problem, which was first presented in Nozick [1969]. The author suggested there a solution of his own, with which he admitted to being dissatisfied, and invited further comments that might 'enable [Nozick] to stop returning periodically to [the paradox]' (op. cit. p. 143). We found the parado...
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