Daniel M. Oppenheimer's research while affiliated with Carnegie Mellon University and other places

Publications (72)

Article
While the human visual system is sensitive to numerosity, the mechanisms that allow perception to extract and represent the number of objects in a scene remains unknown. Prominent theoretical approaches posit that numerosity perception emerges from passive experience with visual scenes throughout development, and that unsupervised deep neural netwo...
Article
Despite decades of research in the fields of judgment and decision-making, social psychology, cognitive psychology, human-machine interaction, behavioral economics, and neuroscience, we still do not know what "cognitive effort" is. The definitions in use are often imprecise and sometimes diametrically opposed. Researchers with different assumptions...
Article
Lakoff's model of political ideology proposes people's beliefs about how government should operate are grounded in beliefs about how families should operate. Previous research shows the left-right political spectrum can be explained by differences in preferences for nurturant (Democrats) and disciplinarian (Republican) parenting styles. We extend t...
Article
We present an empirical demonstration that people rely on linguistic valence as a direct cue to a speaker’s group membership. Members of the U.S. voting public judge positive words as more likely to be spoken by members of their political in-group, and negative words as more likely to be spoken by members of their political out-group (three studies...
Preprint
Bayesian adaptive experimental design is a form of active learning, which chooses samples to maximize the information they give about uncertain parameters. Prior work has shown that other forms of active learning can suffer from active learning bias, where unrepresentative sampling leads to inconsistent parameter estimates. We show that active lear...
Article
Failure of replication attempts in experimental psychology might extend beyond p-hacking, publication bias or hidden moderators; reductions in experimental power can be caused by violations of fidelity to a set of experimental protocols. In this article, we run a series of simulations to systematically explore how manipulating fidelity influences e...
Article
As technology advances, people increasingly outsource cognitive tasks and can more easily access others' knowledge. While externalized aids often support human abilities, they may also make it more difficult for people to assess their own competence. Indeed, using online search engines leads people to treat searchable information as if they already...
Article
Cognitive ability consists not only of one’s internal competence but also of the augmentation offered by the outside world. How much of our cognitive success is due to our own abilities, and how much is due to external support? Can we accurately draw that distinction? Here, we explored when and why people are unaware of their reliance on outside as...
Article
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Previous work has demonstrated that certain speech patterns vary systematically between sociodemographic groups, so that in some cases the way a person speaks is a valid cue to group membership. Our work addresses whether or not participants use these linguistic cues when assessing a speaker's likely political identity. We use a database of speeche...
Article
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People are very good at making relative judgments (determining where a stimulus ranks in a distribution) but not very good at making absolute judgments (determining the absolute properties of the stimulus independent of context). Thus, when evaluating various stimuli, people tend to encode ordinal rank rather than objective quality. This leads to a...
Article
Beliefs about how effective a cause will be at achieving possible outcomes are critical inputs into a range of decisions, from how to treat an illness to which products to purchase. We identify scope—the number of distinct outcomes a cause is known to achieve—as an important input into judgments of efficacy. We compare causes that lead to worse out...
Preprint
Previous work has demonstrated that certain speech patterns vary systematically between sociodemographic groups, so that in some cases the way a person speaks is a valid cue to group membership. Our work addresses whether or not participants use these linguistic cues when assessing a speaker’s likely political identity. We use a database of speeche...
Article
Full-text available
People are adept at generating and evaluating explanations for events around them. But what makes for a satisfying explanation? While some scholars argue that individuals find simple explanations to be more satisfying (Lombrozo, 2007), others argue that complex explanations are preferred (Zemla, et al. 2017). Uniting these perspectives, we posit th...
Article
This paper proposes an original account of decision anomalies and a computational alternative to existing dynamic models of multi-attribute choice. To date, most models attempting to account for the "Big Three" decision anomalies (similarity, attraction, and compromise effects) are variants of evidence accumulation models, or rational Bayesian anal...
Article
In this Tutorial, we introduce a tool that allows researchers to track subjects’ on- and off-task activity on Qualtrics’ online survey platform. Our TaskMaster tool uses JavaScript to create several arrayed variables representing the frequency with which subjects enter and leave an active survey window and how long they remain within a given window...
Article
One way to reduce waste and to make a system more robust is to allow its components to pool resources. For example, banks might insure each other or share a common capital reserve. Systems whose resources have been pooled in this way are highly prevalent in such diverse domains as finance, infrastructure, health care, emergency response and enginee...
Article
We examined persuasive and expository writing samples collected from more than 300 college students as part of a nine-year cross-sectional and longitudinal study of undergraduate writing performance, conducted between 2000 and 2008. Using newly developed scoring rubrics, longitudinal analyses of writing scores revealed statistically significant gro...
Article
When forming a judgment about any unknown item, people must draw inferences from information that is already known. This paper examines causal relationships between cues as a relevant factor influencing how people determine the amount of weight to place on each piece of available evidence. We propose that people draw from their beliefs about specif...
Article
Full-text available
Several models of judgment propose that people struggle with absolute judgments and instead represent options on the basis of their relative standing. This leads to a conundrum when people make judgments from memory: They may encode an option’s ordinal rank relative to the surrounding options but later observe a different distribution of options. D...
Article
To date, technological interventions in note-taking have been generally unsuccessful in improving performance. One reason for this lack of success may be that developers focus on making note-taking easier, while neglecting how the technologies could affect the other psychological processes underlying effective note-taking. Importantly, since note-t...
Article
Giving to charity not only helps fund programs that are beneficial to society but also reliably increases the well-being of donors. However, not all donations are equally effective at improving donor happiness. This article reviews the research from psychology and behavioral economics and identifies several key factors for optimizing donor experien...
Article
Full-text available
We present a novel method of judgment analysis called Error Parsing, based upon an alternative method of implementing Social Judgment Theory (SJT). SJT and Error Parsing both posit the same three components of error in human judgment: error due to noise, error due to cue weighting, and error due to inconsistency. In that sense, the broad theory and...
Article
For decades, the dominant paradigm for studying decision making-the expected utility framework-has been burdened by an increasing number of empirical findings that question its validity as a model of human cognition and behavior. However, as Kuhn (1962) argued in his seminal discussion of paradigm shifts, an old paradigm cannot be abandoned until a...
Article
It is well documented that student-athletes underperform academically. Some researchers have suggested that this underperformance is because student-athletes lack motivation in academic endeavors. In contrast, we find that most student-athletes hold positive private attitudes towards academic achievement, but also believe that their peers do not. I...
Article
Recent research has demonstrated that, under the right circumstances, making fonts harder to read can improve educational outcomes. However, the initial demonstrations did not fully map out the boundary conditions for where this effect will and will not be observed. In this paper, we identify some of the most plausible moderators of the effect and...
Article
While direct replications such as the “Many Labs” project are extremely valuable in testing the reliability of published findings across laboratories, they reflect the common reliance in psychology on single vignettes or stimuli, which limits the scope of the conclusions that can be reached. New experimental tools and statistical techniques make it...
Article
Taking notes on laptops rather than in longhand is increasingly common. Many researchers have suggested that laptop note taking is less effective than longhand note taking for learning. Prior studies have primarily focused on students' capacity for multitasking and distraction when using laptops. The present research suggests that even when laptops...
Chapter
Most empirical studies and formal models of theory-based categorization have focused on how features within a concept are causally related. In this paper, we explore the possibility that concepts and their features should be thought of in a more holistic manner, as embedded in a much larger and context-dependent web of causal connections which can...
Article
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In this issue of Cognition, Thompson and her colleagues challenge the results from a paper we published several years ago (Alter, Oppenheimer, Epley, & Eyre, 2007). That paper demonstrated that metacognitive difficulty or disfluency can trigger more analytical thinking as measured by accuracy on several reasoning tasks. In their experiments, Thomps...
Article
Categories often have unobservable diagnostic features. For example, if a person is a lawyer, one might expect him to be both well dressed and knowledgeable about the law. However, without observing the person in a courtroom, one cannot tell whether or not he is knowledgeable about the law. How might we categorize the well-dressed person before we...
Article
Models of cue weighting in judgment have typically focused on how decision-makers weight cues individually. Here, the authors propose that people might recognize and weight groups of cues. They examine how judgments change when decision-makers focus on cues individually or as parts of groups. Several experiments demonstrate that people can spontane...
Article
Full-text available
How do people combine cues to form judgments? Recent debate has focused on whether and when individuals use heuristics versus linear models. We propose instead that people may rely on an understanding of the causal relationships between cues to determine how much weight to place on each one. Predictions of the causal model approach match those of l...
Article
Discounting is a phenomenon in causal reasoning in which the presence of one cause casts doubt on another. We provide a survey of the descriptive and formal models that attempt to explain the discounting process and summarize what current models do not account for and where room for improvement exists. We propose a levels-of-analysis framework orga...
Article
Full-text available
What makes a good explanation? We examine the function of latent scope, i.e., the number of unobserved phenomena that an explanation can account for. We show that individuals prefer narrow latent scope explanations-those that account for fewer unobserved effects-to broader explanations. In Experiments 1a-d, participants found narrow latent scope ex...
Article
Previous research has shown that disfluency--the subjective experience of difficulty associated with cognitive operations - leads to deeper processing. Two studies explore the extent to which this deeper processing engendered by disfluency interventions can lead to improved memory performance. Study 1 found that information in hard-to-read fonts wa...
Article
A prominent metaphor in American politics associates left with liberals and right with conservatives. Three studies investigate the extent to which this metaphor not only shapes how people talk about politics, but how people think about politics. Participants who are oriented to their right report more conservative political attitudes, while those...
Article
Full-text available
An illusion of explanatory depth (IOED) occurs when people believe they understand a concept more deeply than they actually do. To date, IOEDs have been identified only in mechanical and natural domains, occluding why they occur and suggesting that their implications are quite limited. Six studies illustrated that IOEDs occur because people adopt a...
Article
Understanding when people reveal unfavorable information about themselves is both practically and theoretically important. Existing research suggests that people tend not to adopt stable disclosure strategies, and consequently disclose too much information in some situations (e.g., embarrassing personal information on Facebook) and too little in ot...
Article
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Past research suggests that semantic and numerical medical risk descriptors may lead to miscommunication and misinterpretation of risk. However, little research has been conducted on systematic features of this bias, and the resulting potential risks to people contemplating or receiving treatment. Three studies explore the influence of verbal versu...
Article
The gambler's fallacy (Tune, 1964) refers to the belief that a streak is more likely to end than chance would dictate. In three studies, participants exhibited a \textit{retrospective gambler's fallacy} (RGF) in which an event that seems rare appears to come from a longer sequence than an event that seems more common. Study 1 demonstrates this bias...
Article
Full-text available
The gambler's fallacy (Tune, 1964) refers to the belief that a streak is more likely to end than chance would dictate. In three studies, participants exhibited a extit{retrospective gambler's fallacy} (RGF) in which an event that seems rare appears to come from a longer sequence than an event that seems more common. Study 1 demonstrates this bias f...
Article
Recent work on judgment and decision making has focused on how people preferentially use cues, or pieces of relevant information, that are easy to access when making decisions. In this article, we discuss a framework for understanding the ways that cues become accessible. We begin by identifying two components of cues and show how these components...
Article
Processing fluency, or the subjective experience of ease with which people process information, reliably influences people's judgments across a broad range of social dimensions. Experimenters have manipulated processing fluency using a vast array of techniques, which, despite their diversity, produce remarkably similar judgmental consequences. For...
Article
Oppenheimer's (2004) demonstration that causal discounting (when the presence of one cause casts doubt on the presence of another) can happen spontaneously addressed the standing concern that discounting was an artifact of experimental demands, but these results could have resulted from memory inhibition. The present studies rule out this alternati...
Article
Participants are not always as diligent in reading and following instructions as experimenters would like them to be. When participants fail to follow instructions, this increases noise and decreases the validity of their data. This paper presents and validates a new tool for detecting participants who are not following instructions – the Instructi...
Article
The present research suggests that many of the most commonly-used indicators of happiness are constructed in a manner that renders them susceptible to null or misleading findings. While few happiness indicators specify particular comparison standards, we demonstrate that people tend to evaluate their happiness relative to comparison standards and g...
Chapter
Full-text available
A coincidence is a random co-occurrence of two or more events that are perceived to be meaningfully associated with each other, even though there is no meaningful causal relationship linking them. A collision between an ambulance carrying an injured bullfighter and a cattle truck would constitute a coincidence, while internal bleeding following ing...
Article
Although people routinely estimate the value of items in their environment, from goods and services to natural resources and lost earnings following an accident, the processes that underlie human valuation estimates are not well understood. We show that people use familiarity and fluency-the ease with which they process information-to determine an...
Article
Full-text available
People tend to believe that sequences of random events produce fewer and shorter streaks than is actually the case. Although this error has been demonstrated repeatedly and in many forms, nearly all studies of randomness cognition have focused on how people think about random events occurring in the present or future. This article examines how our...
Article
Although many researchers use Wagenaar's framework for understanding the factors that people use to determine whether a process is random, the framework has never undergone empirical scrutiny. This paper uses Wagenaar's framework as a starting point and examines the three properties of his framework—independence of events, fixed alternatives, and e...
Article
Fluency - the subjective experience of ease or difficulty associated with completing a mental task - has been shown to be an influential cue in a wide array of judgments. Recently researchers have begun to look at how fluency impacts judgment through more subtle and indirect routes. Fluency impacts whether information is represented in working memo...
Article
Fluency--the ease with which people process information--is a central piece of information we take into account when we make judgments about the world. Prior research has shown that fluency affects judgments in a wide variety of domains, including frequency, familiarity, and confidence. In this paper, we present evidence that fluency also plays a r...
Article
In this article, the authors propose a new framework for understanding and studying heuristics. The authors posit that heuristics primarily serve the purpose of reducing the effort associated with a task. As such, the authors propose that heuristics can be classified according to a small set of effort-reduction principles. The authors use this fram...
Article
People construe the world along a continuum from concretely (focusing on specific, local details) to abstractly (focusing on global essences). We show that people are more likely to interpret the world abstractly when they experience cognitive disfluency, or difficulty processing stimuli in the environment, than when they experience cognitive fluen...
Article
Research has shown that judgments tend to assimilate to irrelevant "anchors." We extend anchoring effects to show that anchors can even operate across modalities by, apparently, priming a general sense of magnitude that is not moored to any unit or scale. An initial study showed that participants drawing long "anchor" lines made higher numerical es...
Article
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Humans appear to reason using two processing styles: System 1 processes that are quick, intuitive, and effortless and System 2 processes that are slow, analytical, and deliberate that occasionally correct the output of System 1. Four experiments suggest that System 2 processes are activated by metacognitive experiences of difficulty or disfluency d...
Article
We propose that people weight fluent, or easy to process, information more heavily than disfluent information when making judgments. Cue fluency was manipulated independent of objective cue validity in three studies, the findings from which support our hypothesis. In Experiment 1, participants weighted a consumer review more heavily when it was wri...
Article
We review the literature on the hot hand fallacy by highlighting the positive and negative aspects of hot hand research over the past 20 years, and suggesting new avenues of research. Many researchers have focused on criticising Gilovich et al.'s claim that the hot hand fallacy exists in basketball and other sports, instead of exploring the general...
Article
Three studies investigated the impact of the psychological principle of fluency (that people tend to prefer easily processed information) on short-term share price movements. In both a laboratory study and two analyses of naturalistic real-world stock market data, fluently named stocks robustly outperformed stocks with disfluent names in the short...
Article
Full-text available
It has been claimed that the perceptual accuracy with which people comprehend distal pointing gestures is low. But this claim is at odds with research showing that detection of other indexical signals, e.g., eye gaze, is very accurate. We conducted three experiments to assess people's detection accuracy of targets of distal pointing gestures, using...
Article
Most texts on writing style encourage authors to avoid overly-complex words. However, a majority of undergraduates admit to deliberately increasing the complexity of their vocabulary so as to give the impression of intelligence. This paper explores the extent to which this strategy is effective. Experiments 1–3 manipulate complexity of texts and fi...
Article
Pharmaceutical noncompliance is an increasingly important problem in the United States, leading to hundreds of thousands of deaths and billions of wasted dollars each year. Patients' fear of adverse events (AEs) is one possible reason for lack of compliance. The aims of the 3 studies described in this article were to investigate whether commonly us...
Article
Three studies demonstrate the warm glow heuristic (Monin, 2003) without relying on aggregated ratings, and illustrate the important distinction between correlating average ratings versus averaging individual correlations. In Study 1, we re-analyze previous data correlating individual ratings with aggregates from another small sample of raters. In S...
Article
Discounting is a causal-reasoning phenomenon in which increasing confidence in the likelihood of a particular cause decreases confidence in the likelihood of all other causes. This article provides evidence that individuals apply discounting principles to making causal attributions about internal cognitive states. In particular, the three studies r...
Article
The 'fast and frugal' approach to reasoning (Gigerenzer, G., & Todd, P. M. (1999). Simple heuristics that make us smart. New York: Oxford University Press) claims that individuals use non-compensatory strategies in judgment--the idea that only one cue is taken into account in reasoning. The simplest and most important of these heuristics postulates...
Article
Full-text available
This paper presents an application of voting geometry to individual decision making. We demonstrate that a number of decision anomalies can arise as a natural consequence of the aggregation of preferences of different neural systems. We present a proof of existence of a set of voting procedures that can account for the attraction effect, the simila...
Article
This paper examines the possibility that fluency – the subjective experience of ease or difficulty associated with cognitive processing – has an impact on the psychological distance of stimuli. Two studies directly examine the relationship between fluency and psychological distance. Five additional studies look at the implications of that relations...

Citations

... Many attempts to define effort were made, but it is surprisingly hard to capture it within a concise and valid definition. We agree with other authors (Thomson and Oppenheimer, 2021;Westbrook and Braver, 2015): despite considerable interest in the topic, no unified and widely accepted definition of effort has been proposed as of yet. We consider a working definition provided by see also: Inzlicht et al., 2018;Steele, 2020) a reasonable starting point in understanding effort. ...
... (We had predetermined that we wanted to present participants with 100 words pairs. Ten of the presented word pairs were included to address a separate research question, reported in Sloman, Oppenheimer, and DeDeo (under review) [66], and two were included as part of our attention check, detailed below. This meant 88 of the 100 pairs were left to directly test sensitivity to politically conditioned variation). ...
... Fidelity to the original study seems central to the very idea of replication. Ellefson and Oppenheimer (2022) have argued for the importance of such fidelity. However, given that no replication can be truly exact, some departures from precisely duplicating original procedures may be desirable, such as updating materials to reflect current social and historical factors. ...
... Furthermore, as the level of immersion increases, it is possible to integrate human sensing devices to capture participants' psychophysiological data, which is a field of data that has historically been overlooked. Such data provide insights into how participants' behaviors and perceptions may change in contextual settings in different research fields [16][17][18][19][20]. In addition, psychophysiological data can record people's responses to environmental changes, while some of these responses are not visible from the videos such as heart rate. ...
... Students' ideas of what helps them learn are often incorrect (Finn and Tauber, 2015). If there is an over-reliance of student evaluations of teaching in promotion and tenure decisions, it could lead to instructors using methods that will increase these subjective ratings rather than enhance student learning (Carpenter et al., 2020b;Oppenheimer and Hargis, 2020). The current study extended research from Carpenter et al. (2020a) to clarify that disfluency can affect instructor ratings and highlighted that female instructors may be rated much lower than male instructors when they are illprepared for a lecture even though learning suffers in a disfluent lecture regardless of the gender of the instructor. ...
... Further, more detailed explanations of clinical decision support systems led to increased trust in the systems compared to less detailed explanations (Bussone, Stumpf, & O'Sullivan, 2015). This may provide further support for the complexity matching hypothesis of Lim and Oppenheimer (2020), and suggests that people may trust the simple models that improved decisions in (Kleinberg & Marsh, 2021) less than they trust complex models. However, there are many ways a model can be simplified and we do not yet know how the specific information content that is included or omitted may influence trust in and use of models. ...
... Information about norms (right or wrong) and valence (good or bad) is processed rapidly and automatically (Moors & De Houwer, 2010) and influences thinking in many domains including causation (Knobe, 2010). For example, people are likelier to identify norm-violations as causes and non-norm-violations as non-causes (Kominsky et al., 2015), reason differently about the potency of good versus bad causes (Sussman & Oppenheimer, 2020), and tend to think that good events cause other good events (LeBoeuf & Norton, 2012). Macroeconomic understanding is dominated by a "good begets good" heuristic (Leiser & Aroch, 2009), wherein "bad" events (inflation, unemployment, stagnation, inequality) are thought to be interrelated and negatively related to "good" events (price stability, full employment, economic growth, equality) ( Figure 4b). ...
... Unjustified preferences itself are not enough and there is a need for its reasoning [62]. Furthermore, some authors are developed computational models for a better understanding of individual preferences (for example, VAMP or Voting Agent Model of Preferences [64]), which can be useful before its aggregation. ...
... The response scales ranged from 1 (not at all) to 7 (very much), α = 0.84. All participants were subsequently presented with recommendations for plant-based eating from Health Canada and reading time was assessed by TaskMaster [109]. However, there were no significant effects on reading time due to low compliance (see Supporting Information). ...
... College composition courses are historically significant at US universities as the mostrequired course in higher education (Crowley and Hawhee, 1999). Although Crank (2012) asserts that it is a challenge to help freshmen with improving their writing skills, over the course of students' college life, their writing skills are believed to be improved through the writing courses that they take (Oppenheimer et al., 2017). However, it is important to note that writing proficiency has been found to be context-bound and dependent on general writing skills (Oppenheimer et al., 2017). ...