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Nonprobative photographs (or words) inflate truthiness

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Nonprobative photographs (or words) inflate truthiness

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When people evaluate claims, they often rely on what comedian Stephen Colbert calls "truthiness," or subjective feelings of truth. In four experiments, we examined the impact of nonprobative information on truthiness. In Experiments 1A and 1B, people saw familiar and unfamiliar celebrity names and, for each, quickly responded "true" or "false" to the (between-subjects) claim "This famous person is alive" or "This famous person is dead." Within subjects, some of the names appeared with a photo of the celebrity engaged in his or her profession, whereas other names appeared alone. For unfamiliar celebrity names, photos increased the likelihood that the subjects would judge the claim to be true. Moreover, the same photos inflated the subjective truth of both the "alive" and "dead" claims, suggesting that photos did not produce an "alive bias" but rather a "truth bias." Experiment 2 showed that photos and verbal information similarly inflated truthiness, suggesting that the effect is not peculiar to photographs per se. Experiment 3 demonstrated that nonprobative photos can also enhance the truthiness of general knowledge claims (e.g., Giraffes are the only mammals that cannot jump). These effects add to a growing literature on how nonprobative information can inflate subjective feelings of truth.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.3758/s13423-012-0292-0
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Metadata of the article that will be visualized in OnlineFirst
1 Article Title Nonprobative photographs (or w ords) inflate truthiness
2 Article Sub- T i tl e
3 Article Copyright -
Year
Psychonomic Society, Inc. 2012
(This w ill be the copyright line in the final PDF)
4 Journal Name Psychonomic Bulletin & Review
5
Correspondi ng
Author
Family Nam e Garry
6 Particl e
7 Given Nam e Maryanne
8 Suffi x
9 Organi zation Victoria Uni versity of Wellington
10 Division School of Psychol ogy
11 Address P.O. Box 600, Wellington 6147, New Zeal and
12 e-mail Ma ryanne.Garry@vuw.ac.nz
13
Author
Family Nam e New ma n
14 Particle
15 Gi ven Name Eryn J.
16 Suffix
17 Organizati on Victoria University of Wel l i ngton
18 Division School of Psychol ogy
19 Address P.O. Box 600, Wellington 6147, New Zeal and
20 e-mail
21
Author
Family Nam e Bernstein
22 Particle
23 Gi ven Name Daniel M.
24 Suffix
25 Organizati on Kwantlen Polytechnic Uni versity
26 Division
27 Address British Columbia, Canada
28 e-mail
29
Author
Family Nam e Kantner
30 Particle
31 Gi ven Name Justin
_____________________________________________________________________________________
Please note: Images will appear in color online but will be printed in black and white.
_____________________________________________________________________________________
AUTHOR'S PROOF
32 Suffix
33 Organizati on University of Vi ctoria
34 Division
35 Address British Columbia, Canada
36 e-mail
37
Author
Family Nam e Lindsay
38 Particle
39 Gi ven Name D. Stephen
40 Suffix
41 Organizati on University of Vi ctoria
42 Division
43 Address British Columbia, Canada
44 e-mail
45
Schedul e
Recei ved
46 Revi sed
47 Accepted
48 Abstract When pe opl e eval uate cl aims, they often rel y o n what comedian
Stephen Colbert cal l s “truthi ness,” or subj ective feel i ngs of truth. In
four experiments, we exam i ned the impact of nonprobative
informati on on truthi ness. In Experim ents 1A and 1B, people saw
fam i l i ar and unfam i l i ar cel ebrity n ames and, for each, qui ckly
respon ded “true” or “fal se” to the (between-subjects) claim “Thi s
fam ous person i s alive” or “This famous person i s dead.” Within
subj ects, some of the nam es appeared wi th a photo of the cel ebrity
engaged in hi s or her profession, whe reas other names appeared
al one. For unfami l i ar cel ebrity name s, photos increased the
likelihood that the subjects would j udge the clai m to be true.
Moreover, the same photos infl ated the subjective truth of both the
“alive” and “dead” clai m s, suggesting that photos did not produce
an “al i ve bi as” but rather a “truth bi as.” Experiment 2 showed th at
photo s and verbal informati on si m i l arly infl ated truthiness,
sugg esting that the effect is not pecul i ar to photograph s per se.
Experime nt 3 demonstrated that nonprobative photos can also
enhance the truthi ness of general knowledge clai m s (e.g., Gi raffes
are the onl y mammals that cannot jump). T hese effects add to a
growing l i terature on how nonprobative informati on can inflate
subj ecti ve feeli ngs of truth .
49 Keywords
sepa rated by ' - '
Memory - Rel ati ve judgme nt - Cogni tive fluency
50 Foot note
informati on
The onl i ne versi on of this arti cl e (doi:10.3 758/s13423-012-0292-0)
contai ns supplementary material , which is available to authorized
users.
AUTHOR'S PROOF
Electronic supplementary material
ESM 1
(PDF 98kb)
AUTHOR'S PROOF
UNCORRECTED PROOF
1
2
3BRIEF REPORT
4Nonprobative photographs (or words) inflate truthiness
6Eryn J. Newman &Maryanne Garry &
7Daniel M. Bernstein &Justin Kantner &
8D. Stephen Lindsay
9
10
11
12 #Psychonomic Society, Inc. 2012
13
14 Abstract When people evaluate claims, they often rely on
15 what comedian Stephen Colbert calls truthiness,or
16 subjective feelings of truth. In four experiments, we
17 examined the impact of nonprobative information on
18 truthiness. In Experiments 1A and 1B, people saw fa-
19 miliar and unfamiliar celebrity names and, for each,
20 quickly responded trueor falseto the (between-
21 subjects) claim This famous person is aliveor This
22 famous person is dead.Within subjects, some of the
23 names appeared with a photo of the celebrity engaged
24 in his or her profession, whereas other names appeared
25 alone. For unfamiliar celebrity names, photos increased
26 the likelihood that the subjects would judge the claim to
27 be true. Moreover, the same photos inflated the subjec-
28 tive truth of both the aliveand deadclaims, sug-
29 gesting that photos did not produce an alive biasbut
30 rather a truth bias.Experiment 2showed that photos
31 and verbal information similarly inflated truthiness, sug-
32 gesting that the effect is not peculiar to photographs per
33 se. Experiment 3demonstrated that nonprobative photos
34 can also enhance the truthiness of general knowledge
35 claims (e.g., Giraffes are the only mammals that cannot
36 jump). These effects add to a growing literature on how
37 nonprobative information can inflate subjective feelings
38 of truth.
39Keywords Memory .Relative judgment .Cognitive fluency Q2
40I am no fan of dictionaries or reference books,says
41comedian Stephen Colbert, constantly telling us what is
42or isnttrue.Instead of looking up claims in a book,
43Colbert urges viewers to try looking it up in your gut.
44This is truthiness:truth that comes from the gut, not
45books.Of course, when people evaluate claims, they use
46both rational thinking and intuitive hunchesoften doing
47so, as Colbert implied, without having access to the facts. A
48century of research has shown that these intuitive judgments
49are susceptible to influence from general beliefs, prejudices,
50and expectations; from features of the current context, such
51as demand characteristics; and from aspects of past experi-
52ence that interact with the present to privilege the accessi-
53bility of some memories over others (Bransford & Johnson,
541972;Henkel&Mather,2007; Kunst-Wilson & Zajonc,
551980; Lindsay, 2008). In this article, we will use the term
56truthiness effectto refer to a category of phenomena in
57whichwhen making rapid judgments about the truth of a
58claimnonprobative information about a stimulus or situa-
59tion causes people to shift toward believing that claim.
60Suppose, for instance, that you evaluate the claim Stephen
61King is alive.You are probably familiar with Stephen King.
62The cognitive literature suggests that you will try to retrieve
63information from memoryrelated knowledge, thoughts, and
64imagesto help you decide whether or not he is alive
65(Graesser & Hemphill, 1991). We know from research on
66confirmation bias that people search for information that sup-
67ports their hypotheses, perhaps because (as per Spinozas
68notion) comprehending a claim entails representing it as true,
69whereas falsifying it requires a secondary, more effortful step
70(Gilbert, Tafarodi, & Malone, 1993; Nickerson, 1998). So,
71given the claim Stephen King is alive,you might mentally
72test the hypothesis that he is indeed alive: You seerecent
73images of him, hearhim on NPR, or rememberseeing
74advertisements for his latest book. The fluency with which
75you generate these alive-consistent thoughts and images may
Electronic supplementary material The online version of this article
(doi:10.3758/s13423-012-0292-0) contains supplementary material,
which is available to authorized users.
E. J. Newman :M. Garry (*)
School of Psychology, Victoria University of Wellington,
P.O. Box 600 Wellington, New Zealand 6147
e-mail: Maryanne.Garry@vuw.ac.nz
D. M. Bernstein
Kwantlen Polytechnic University,
British Columbia, Canada
Q1
J. Kantner :D. S. Lindsay
University of Victoria,
British Columbia, Canada
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76 bolster their perceived currency. And so you conclude that the
77 claim is true.
78 But now suppose that you evaluate the claim John Key
79 is alive.We suspect that most readers know little to nothing
80 about John Key. You might think John Key? Not sure if
81 Ive heard of him. I have no idea whether hes alive.You
82 might be unable to conjure thoughts and images to help you
83 evaluate whether the claim is true, and your only recourse
84 would be to guess. But nonprobative information can affect
85 peoples guesses in the moment. Indeed, several lines of
86 research lead us to speculate that when a claim appears with
87 a photograph, such as the one of John Key in Fig. 1below,
88 the photo might bias people to guess that the claim is true.
89 We know from studies of cognitive fluency that pre-
90 senting information in a semantically rich context can
91 facilitate conceptual processing and lead to illusions of
92 familiarity in the moment. For example, people more
93 often claim that they have studied a target word (e.g.,
94 boat) earlier when the test word appears in a seman-
95 tically predictive sentence (Thestormyseastossedthe
96 boat) rather than in a neutral sentence (He saved up
97 his money and bought a boat; Whittlesea, 1993). The
98 semantically predictive context is thought to help people
99 anticipate the final word, producing unexpectedly fluent
100 conceptual processing, which they take as evidence of
101familiarityleading them to say that they have recently
102seen the word. This finding also fits with the literature
103on cognitive availability: Repeated or semantically
104primed information is easily retrieved from memory,
105and people often concludesometimes falselythat
106easy retrieval signals frequency, familiarity, and truth
107(Begg, Anas, & Farinacci, 1992; Kelley & Lindsay,
1081993; Tversky & Kahneman, 1973; Whittlesea, 2011).
109This literature suggests that in a single presentation,
110photos might provide a semantically rich context, mak-
111ing details about an otherwise unfamiliar name more
112available. Thus, photos should bootstrap the generation
113of thoughts and images that subjects may then be biased
114to construe as evidence that the claim in question is
115true. To understand our thinking, reconsider the claim
116about John Key, but this time look at the photo in
117Fig. 1. Suddenly you know a little more about him.
118You might think Hes probably some kind of political
119figureI see a flag, and microphones with media logos.
120The flag has part of the Union Jacklooks like its
121from Australia or maybe New Zealand. . . .The photo
122is related to the claim and is nonprobativeit does not
123tell you whether John Key is alivebut the information
124you glean from that photo might nonetheless enable you
125to do a better job of imagining that the claim is true.
Fig. 1 Bias for claims about familiarand unfamiliar names (in Exps. 1A,
1B,and2) or for easy and difficult trivia statements (in Exp. 3), presented
with or without a photograph and collapsed across the Dead/Alive factor
(in Exps. 1A, 1B,and2). Negative values of cindicate a bias to respond
true.In Experiments 1and 2, photos (or words) affected bias for
unfamiliar names; in Experiment 3, photos affected bias for difficult trivia
statements. The error bars show 95 % within-subjects confidence inter-
vals for the photo/no-photo effect at each level of familiarity or difficulty
(see Masson & Loftus, 2003). The photo is presented courtesy of the New
Zealand National Party, under a Creative Commons license
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126 Related lines of research have shown that when people
127 can easily imagine a target, they often concludeonly
128 moments laterthat a claim about it is more likely to be
129 true (Sherman, Cialdini, Schwartzman, & Reynolds,
130 1985; see Alter & Oppenheimer, 2009, for a review).
131 Photos should provide the raw materials for imagery,
132 thereby facilitating generation of the rich perceptual and
133 conceptual details that people typically interpret as cues
134 to reality (e.g., Johnson, 2006). Moreover, people are
135 inclined to trust photos, which are often the best evi-
136 dence that something actually occurred (Kelly & Nace,
137 1994). So, even if photos do not provide probative
138 evidence for a target claim (like the photo in Fig. 1),
139 they might nonetheless boost belief in the claim, because
140 photos are inherently credible in themselves. In a partic-
141 ularly worrisome example of this sort of bias, students
142 rated the scientific reasoning of a neuroscience article
143 more favorably if the article included an image of the
144 brain (McCabe & Castel, 2008).
145 This body of research suggests that photos might boost the
146 truthiness of claims by bootstrapping the generation of related
147 ideas and images, or by creating an aura of plausibility simply
148 because people find photos to be credible. Many studies have
149 demonstrated that imagination or repeated exposure to claims
150 canover timeproduce illusions of truth, belief, and mem-
151 ory (Bernstein, 2005;Brown&Marsh,2008; Garry, Manning,
152 Loftus, & Sherman, 1996; Lindsay, Hagen, Read, Wade, &
153 Garry, 2004). Here we propose that a claim coupled with a
154 related but nonprobative photo might, in the moment, com-
155 bine with confirmation bias to produce immediate truthiness
156 (cf. Hansen & Wänke, 2010).
157 In our first two experiments, we showed people familiar
158 and unfamiliar celebrity names; half of the celebrities
159 were alive. The celebrity names appeared either with or
160 without a photo. For each name, we asked some subjects
161 to judge the truth of the claim This famous person is
162 alive.The photos depicted celebrities alive, which might
163 be taken as evidence of celebrities being alive. Therefore,
164 we asked another group of subjects to respond to the
165 claim This famous person is dead.If photos help
166 people generate hypothesis-consistent thoughts and
167 images about unfamiliar celebrities, then photos should
168 increase the truthiness of claims about those celebrities,
169 regardless of whether the claim is that the celebrity is
170 alive or dead (cf. Unkelbach, 2007).
171 Experiments 1A and 1B
172 Method
173 Subjects In Experiment 1A, 92 undergraduate psychology
174 students from Victoria University of Wellington, New
175Zealand, participated for course credit. In Experiment
1761B, 48 undergraduate psychology students from the
177University of Victoria, Canada, participated for optional
178bonus points.
179Design We used a 2 (photograph: yes, no) × 2 (familiarity:
180familiar, unfamiliar) × 2 (claim: alive, dead) mixed design,
181manipulating photograph and familiarity within subjects and
182claim between subjects.
183Procedure On the basis of data from preliminary norming,
184we assembled sets of low- and moderate-familiarity celeb-
185rity names; for brevity, we refer to these as unfamiliarand
186familiarcelebrities. Half of these celebrities were alive,
187and the names of the dead and alive celebrities were equated
188on familiarity (on a 5-point scale, M
Alive
02.89, SD
Alive
0
1890.62; M
Dead
02.87, SD
Dead
00.58) and represented a similar
190range of eras and professions.
191We used Macintosh iBook G4 computers and PsyScope
192software to present 80 celebrity names40 familiar and 40
193unfamiliarto subjects. The names appeared, individually,
194in large black font against a white background. On half of
195the trials, subjects saw a photo of the celebrity engaged in
196his or her professionfor example, John Key, the current
197New Zealand prime minister, standing at a podium with
198microphones and a New Zealand flag (see Fig. 1).
199The order of the names was randomized for each subject,
200was counterbalanced so that names appeared equally often
201with or without a photo, and was orthogonal to the alive/
202dead and low/high familiarity variables. Subjects learned
203that sometimes they would see a photo and sometimes they
204would not. We did not provide any further instructions about
205how they should use the photo. As each name or name
206photo pair appeared, we asked half of our subjects to decide
207the truth of the claim This famous person is aliveand
208the other half to decide the truth of the claim This
209famous person is dead.We asked the subjects to re-
210spond as quickly as possible, but not so quickly that
211you start making errors,and asked them to respond
212within 3 s.
1
213Experiment 1B, a replication, followed the same proce-
214dure, but with new sets of unfamiliarand familiar
215celebrities assembled after new norming with Canadian
216students. The subjects saw 84 celebrity names, presented
217using E-Prime software (Psychology Software Tools Inc.,
218Sharpsburg, PA) on PCs. 219
1
In Experiment 1A, we did not record data for trials in which the
responses exceeded 3 s, which happened on 9.62 % of trials, but in
Experiment 1B, we recorded and analyzed all response times. Also,
because of a programming error, two celebrity names appeared in the
incorrect counterbalance; we excluded those names from the analyses,
but we found the same (significant) pattern of results when we did
include them.
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220 Results
221 We calculated peoples bias (c) to say that a claim was true
222 (Stanislaw & Todorov, 1999).
2
Figure 1shows that across
223 Experiments 1A and 1B, the black bars are relatively more
224 negative than the gray bars, indicating that pairing a claim
225 with a photo led people to be more inclined to say that the
226 claim was true. Relative to the no-photo control, people
227 were more biased to respond true(i.e., lower values of c)
228 when photos accompanied the names [Exp. 1A,F(1, 90) 0
229 4.87 η
p
2
0.05; Exp. 1B,F(1, 46) 010.53, η
p
2
0.19]. In both
230 experiments, the effect of photos tended to be larger for
231 unfamiliar names [Exp. 1A,t
unfam
Q3 (91) 02.21; Exp. 1B,t
un-
232
fam(47) 03.74] than for familiar names [Exp. 1A,tfam
(91) 01.02, n.s.;
233 Experiment 1B,t
fam
(47) 01.25, p0.22], although the
234 Photo × Familiarity interaction was significant only in
235 Experiment 1B,F(1, 46) 05.40, η
p
2
0.11, not in
236 Experiment 1A,F(1, 90) < 1.
237 Truthiness or aliveness? Consistent with our hypothesis that
238 photos promoted truthiness, not aliveness, the claim variable
239 (dead or alive) did not interact with photos (F<2).Therewas
240 a nonsignificant Photo × Familiarity × Claim interaction in
241 Experiment 1B,F(1, 46) 02.62, p0.11; this interaction was
242 also nonsignificant in Experiment 1A,F<1.
243 Interestingly, people tended to find aliveclaims to be true
244 more often than deadclaims. In Experiment 1A,thispattern
245 was most pronounced for familiar names [Familiarity × Claim
246 interaction, F(1, 90) 013.05, η
p
2
0.13; t
fam
(91) 04.63,
247 t
unfam
(91) < 1]. In Experiment 1B, a similar tendency occurred
248 for all names, F(1, 46) 03.94, p0.05, η
p
2
0.08.249
250 Discussion
251 As predicted, photos led to a truth bias for unfamiliar
252 celebrity names. These results fit with a mechanism
253 relating to cognitive availability: Photos might promote
254 truthiness because they provide a rich semantic context
255 that facilitates the generation of thoughts and images
256 relating to the claim. But these results also fit with
257 the idea that feelings of truthiness arose because photos
258 are inherently credible; people often regard photos as
259 evidence of reality. Indeed, Kelly and Nace (1994)
260 showed that people trust photos even when they distrust
261 the source in which they appear (e.g., the National
262 Enquirer). In a result perhaps related to this finding,
263 McCabe and Castel (2008) found that in contrast to
264 photorealistic images of the brain, bar graphs did not
265 enhance ratings of the scientific reasoning in an article
266 (see also Keehner, Mayberry, & Fischer, 2011). In
267Experiment 2, we examined whether the unique charac-
268teristics of photos are essential ingredients in producing
269truthiness. To address this question, we compared the
270effect of photos to the effect of verbal descriptions of
271those photos. If these verbal descriptions also produce
272truthiness, it would suggest that when people lack
273knowledge, anything that makes it easier for people to
274generate thoughts and images related to a claim should
275bias them toward believing that claim.
276Experiment 2
277Method
278Subjects A group of 54 undergraduate students from the
279University of Victoria, Canada, participated for optional
280bonus points.
281Design We used a 2 (nonprobative information: yes, no) × 2
282(format of nonprobative information: photo, verbal) × 2
283(claim: alive, dead) mixed design. We manipulated the
284format (photo vs. verbal) and claim (dead vs. alive)
285between subjects, and also reduced the design by in-
286cluding only the condition that produces truthiness: un-
287familiar names.
288Materials and procedure The subjects saw 52 names, which
289comprised 40 of the critical unfamiliar names from
290Experiment 1B and 12 moderate-familiarity celebrity
291names. We included a few moderate-familiarity names as
292fillers in order to make the task easier and more engaging for
293the subjects.
294Half of the subjects saw a photograph of the celebrity
295paired with half of the names, and the other half saw a
296verbal description of the celebrity instead of a photo. We
297created verbal descriptions for each name by asking two
298raters to extract specific but nonprobative information from
299each celebrity photo: ethnicity, sex, hair, generic occupation,
300and a career-related concrete noun (e.g., the information for
301John Key would be white male; short brown straight hair;
302political leader; podium).
303Regardless of the format of the nonprobative information
304that sometimes appeared with celebrity names, subjects had
305the same task: Half responded to the truth of the claim This
306famous person is alive,and the other half to This famous
307person is dead.All other aspects of the method were
308identical to those of Experiment 1B.309
310
Results
311Figure 1shows that photos and verbal descriptions produced
312a similar truthiness effect. That is, people were more biased
2
Table 1in the Supplemental Materials provides a brief summary of
the results of parallel d' analyses.
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AUTHOR'S PROOF
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313 to respond truewhen nonprobative information accompa-
314 nied names, F(1, 50) 010.27, η
p
2
0.17. Claim did not
315 interact with the presence or format of the nonprobative
316 information (all Fs < 1).
317 Discussion
318 These findings show that truthiness is not tied to the
319 perceived credibility of photos. Instead, these results
320 point to a more general mechanism whereby manipula-
321 tions that facilitate elaboration, against the backdrop of
322 a confirmation bias, lead people to conclude that claims
323 are true. In Experiment 3, we further explored the
324 generalizability of the effect of nonprobative photos on
325 subjective truth, testing the hypothesis that general
326 knowledge claims (e.g., Turtles are deaf) seem truer
327 when paired with a photo that is related to, but does not
328 specifically depict, the claim.
329 Experiment 3
330 Method
331 Subjects In Experiment 3, 70 undergraduate psychology
332 students from Victoria University of Wellington participated
333 for course credit.
334 Design We used a 2 (photograph: yes, no) × 2 (difficulty:
335 easy, hard) within-subjects design.
336 Procedure We used trivia statements from previous research
337 and data from preliminary norming to assemble sets of easy
338 and difficult truefalse trivia statements that sampled gen-
339 eral knowledge (Nelson & Narens, 1980; Unkelbach, 2007).
340 People answered easy statements correctly 80 %100 %
341 of the time and answered difficult statements correctly
342 40 %60 % of the time.
343 We used the same presentation and response formats as in
344 the prior experiments. On half of the trials, subjects saw a
345 photo that depicted the grammatical subject of the statement
346 but did not provide any diagnostic information about wheth-
347 er the statement was true. For example, the claim that
348 Macadamia nuts are in the same evolutionary family as
349 peachesappeared with a photo of macadamia nuts.350
351 Results
352 As Fig. 1shows, photos had the same effect as in our prior
353 experiments: They produced a truthiness effect, F(1, 69) 0
354 6.65, η
p
2
0.09. Although the interaction between difficulty
355 and claim did not reach significance, F(1, 69) 01.82, p0.18,
356 follow-up analyses supported a conclusion similar to the one
357from Experiments 1A and 1B, in that the effect was most
358pronounced when people evaluated difficult rather than easy
359claims, t
diff
(69) 03.16, t
easy
(69) 00.85, n.s.
360Although Fig. 1suggests that Experiments 1A, 1B, and 2
361might be interpreted as showing that photos move people
362toward a neutral bias, Experiment 3shows that photos move
363people toward truthiness. In Experiment 3, even without
364photos, people had a tendency to respond that claims were
365true, yet the photos still promoted truthiness.
366General discussion
367Across four experiments, nonprobative photos inflated tru-
368thiness. It is arguably unsurprising that photos inflated the
369truth of aliveclaims: The photos depicted celebrities alive,
370and should have facilitated imagery of those celebrities
371doing various thingsall of which would be possible evi-
372dence of aliveness. The fascinating finding is that the same
373photos also inflated the truthiness of deadclaims: The
374photos did not produce an alive biasbut a truth bias.
375Moreover, the truthiness effect generalized beyond dead
376or alivejudgments: Nonprobative photos enhanced the
377subjective truth of general knowledge claims, too.
378The finding that nonprobative verbal information also
379inflated truthiness suggests that the effect of photos on
380subjective truth is driven not simply by a perception that
381photos are inherently trustworthy. We speculate that non-
382probative photos and verbal information help people gen-
383erate pseudoevidence (cf. Kelly & Nace, 1994). People
384may selectively interpret information gleaned from a
385photo or description as consistent with their hypothesis
3
386and/or they may use such information to cue the mental
387generation of thoughts and images consistent with their
388hypothesis. It is also possible that the ease or fluency
389with which people bring related information to mind
390contributes to a feeling of truthiness. Although we cannot
391determine which of these mechanisms underlies the tru-
392thiness effect, across four experiments our data suggest a
393general mechanism whereby the availability of related but
394nonprobative information promotes the truthiness of un-
395familiar claims.
396Our findings suggest that even without repeated expo-
397sures or instructions to imagine, the mere presence of non-
398probative information such as photos might rapidly inflate
399the perceived truth of many types of true and false claims (cf.
400Brown & Marsh, 2008; Lindsay et al., 2004). They also
401suggest that neuroscience claims need not be accompanied
402by neuroimages to seem more credible: a photo or description
403of the author might suffice (cf. McCabe & Castel, 2008).
3
We thank Elizabeth Loftus for raising this possibility.
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404 We view the effects reported here not as qualitatively new
405 phenomena, but rather as lovely new exemplars of a grow-
406 ing family of effects pertaining to inferences (perhaps un-
407 consciously made) regarding the mental generation of
408 hypothesis-consistent evidence (Jacoby, Kelley, & Dywan,
409 1989; Johnson, 2006; Schwarz, 2010; Whittlesea, 2011). We
410 describe the photo effect as lovelyfor two reasons. First,
411 as compared to the other truthiness-inducing manipula-
412 tionswith which we have experience, the effect of non-
413 probative photos seems to be quite robust. A robust effect is,
414 of course, an essential tool for theory development, and we
415 hope that future research will manipulate the presence ver-
416 sus absence of photosQ4 to explore the specific mechanisms
417 underlying its effect. Second, we believe that it is just plain
418 cool that the same manipulation that can lead people to think
419 that an obscure celebrity is alive can also lead them to think
420 that the celebrity is dead.
421
422 Author note We are grateful for the generous support provided by
423 the Marsden Fund and the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research
424 Council of Canada.
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... By serving as pseudo-evidence to a claim, a picture that is somewhat relevant but not probative can increase people's credibility toward the claim. For example, a news article that falsely asserts a celebrity's death is trusted more when it contains the celebrity's photo than when it does not, although such a photo cannot verify the claim (Newman et al. 2012). Moreover, fabricated photos about past events that never occurred are found to make people falsely recall the event happening (Frenda et al. 2013). ...
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