Culture Magazine

People Reason About Probabilities in a All-of-nothing (digital) Manner

By Bbenzon @bbenzon
Johnson, S. G. B., Merchant, T., & Keil, F. C. (2019). Belief digitization: Do we treat uncertainty as probabilities or as bits? Journal of Experimental Psychology: General. Advance online publication.
Abstract: Humans are often characterized as Bayesian reasoners. Here, we question the core Bayesian assumption that probabilities reflect degrees of belief. Across eight studies, we find that people instead reason in a digital manner, assuming that uncertain information is either true or false when using that information to make further inferences. Participants learned about 2 hypotheses, both consistent with some information but one more plausible than the other. Although people explicitly acknowledged that the less-plausible hypothesis had positive probability, they ignored this hypothesis when using the hypotheses to make predictions. This was true across several ways of manipulating plausibility (simplicity, evidence fit, explicit probabilities) and a diverse array of task variations. Taken together, the evidence suggests that digitization occurs in prediction because it circumvents processing bottlenecks surrounding people’s ability to simulate outcomes in hypothetical worlds. These findings have implications for philosophy of science and for the organization of the mind. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2019 APA, all rights reserved)

Back to Featured Articles on Logo Paperblog