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Memory and Judgment Bias in Retrospective Evaluations

Aldrovandi, Silvio (2009). Memory and Judgment Bias in Retrospective Evaluations. (Unpublished Doctoral thesis, City University London)


Previous research has shown that people are biased when providing summary assessments about past experiences. Retrospective evaluations seem based on specific moments within the to-be-assessed episode (e.g., Fredrickson & Kahneman, 1993; Hogarth & Einhorn, 1992). Here, drawing on some of the parallelisms between memory phenomena and judgment and decision making biases (e.g., distinctiveness; Hunt, 2006), a memory-based approach is outlined
and explored. By doing so, the research also addressed the broader debate surrounding the relationships between memory and judgment, fuelled by conflicting results about memory–judgment correlations (e.g., Hastie & Park, 1986). In the first set of studies, participants recalled lists of words, after having assessed each list for pleasantness. The results showed clear associations between memory and judgment, which appeared moderated by the cognitive demands associated with the memory task. Retrospective evaluations were predicted by both the content of recall and the ease with which distinctive information was brought to mind (Schwarz, 1998). The nature of these associations was further investigated in the second set of studies. By hindering the memorability of negative information, it was possible to reduce its impact on retrospective assessments; this finding can easily be interpreted if one assumes a causal relationship between memory and judgment. The last study corroborated the memory-based approach with more cohesive stimuli – namely short stories told through slideshows. These results also suggested that memory-judgment relationships are vulnerable to experiment-related factors; they are easily hindered if the way memory is probed is not aligned with the information that underlies the judgment task. Overall, the findings suggest that, in order to assess an event in retrospect, people rely on their memory but in a way that is biased by the relative availability of certain features of the event. These results are at odds with the predictions of on-line judgment theories (e.g., Anderson, 1989), which postulate functional independence between memory and judgment. The theoretical and practical implications of this work are discussed and future directions for research on the role of memory in retrospective evaluations are suggested.

Publication Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology
Departments: Doctoral Theses
School of Health & Psychological Sciences > Psychology
Doctoral Theses > School of Arts and Social Sciences Doctoral Theses
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