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Fueling doubt and openness: Experiencing the unconscious, constructed nature of perception induces uncertainty and openness to change

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Abstract

Because people lack access to the many unconscious thought processes that influence perception, they often have the experience of seeing things "as they are". Psychologists have long presumed that this "naïve realism" plays a role in driving human confidence and closed-mindedness. Yet, surprisingly, these intuitive links have not been empirically demonstrated. Presumably, if naïve realism drives confidence and closed-mindedness, then disabusing people of naïve realism should reduce confidence in one's judgments and instill openness to change. In the present experiment, we found that participants who read about naïve realism and also experienced various perceptual illusions showed reduced confidence in their social judgments and indicated a greater willingness to change their judgments relative to participants who merely read about naïve realism and perceptual illusions, participants who received failure feedback on an earlier task, or participants left in a baseline state. Broadly, the present research provides evidence for an untested origin of human confidence and closed-mindedness and may have broad implications for decision making. Copyright © 2014 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.

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... One study (Hart, Tullett, Shreves, & Fetterman, 2015) tested the effect of reminding people of their unconscious and automatic mental work on their confidence in their social judgment. In their study, participants who were not only given explanations of unconscious and automatic mental work but were also exposed to optical illusions lost confidence in their social judgment, as compared with participants who were only given the explanations. ...
... To test this hypothesis, visual illusions were used as stimuli to target and challenge habitual reliance on personal sensory perceptions. Unlike Hart et al. (2015), explanations of naïve realism were not used as stimuli in this study. ...
... First, in this study, it was assumed that confronting the gap between one's perceived image and objective reality in sensory perception causes one to recognize that one's own social perceptions are not necessarily an accurate reflection of the social world. As previously mentioned, the result of Hart et al. (2015) also seems to imply that there is a relationship between regarding one's social perception as absolute and experiencing optical illusion. However, the present study does not provide direct evidence for these underlying mechanisms. ...
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We define mental contamination as the process whereby a person has an unwanted response because of mental processing that is unconscious or uncontrollable. This type of bias is distinguishable from the failure to know or apply normative rules of inference and can be further divided into the unwanted consequences of automatic processing and source confusion, which is the confusion of 2 or more causes of a response. Mental contamination is difficult to avoid because it results from both fundamental properties of human cognition (e.g., a lack of awareness of mental processes) and faulty lay beliefs about the mind (e.g., incorrect theories about mental biases). People's lay beliefs determine the steps they take (or fail to take) to correct their judgments and thus are an important but neglected source of biased responses. Strategies for avoiding contamination, such as controlling one's exposure to biasing information, are discussed.
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When the Dartmouth football team played Princeton in 1951, much controversy was generated over what actually took place during the game. Basically, there was disagreement between the two schools as to what had happened during the game. A questionnaire designed to get reactions to the game and to learn something of the climate of opinion was administered at each school and the same motion picture of the game was shown to a sample of undergraduate at each school, followed by another questionnnaire. Results indicate that the "game" was actually many different games and that each version of the events that transpired was just as "real" to a particular person as other versions were to other people.
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Readiness depends on how accessible categories are to the stimulated organism. Accessibility is a function of the likehood of occurrence of previously learned events, and one's need states and habits of daily living. Lack of perceptual readiness can be rectified by relearning the categories, or by constant close inspection of events and objects. Sensory stimuli are "sorted" to appropriate categories by searching for and using cues. 4 mechanisms are proposed: "grouping and integration, access ordering, match-mismatch signal utilization, and gating." Failure of perceptual readiness may occur because of inability to learn appropriate categories or through interference of accessible categories. These ideas may shed light on "perceptual defense." 88 references.
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