Cognitive bias mitigation: Reducing the frequency of conjunction effects in explanations
John Leddo, Ivy Liang, Andersen Eudaimon, Yu Chen
An enormous amount of research has been conducted that documents judgment and decision-making biases when dealing with situations involving uncertainty. One such documented bias is that when asked to explain why events occurred, people rated a conjunction of two explanations as being more likely to have influenced the outcome than the explanations’ individual components (the “conjunction effect”), a statistical impossibility given that a conjunction of two events cannot be more likely than their individual component events (Leddo, Abelson and Gross, 1984; Leddo et al., 2020). This raises the question as to whether cognitive biases can be mitigated. In the Leddo et al. (2020) study, participants who were asked to rate the likelihood that events were true given an outcome showed fewer instances of conjunction biases than those rating the likelihood that those same events were explanations for the same outcomes. This suggests that applying a “truth standard” to explanations may help mitigate the conjunction effect as it pertains to explanations. In the present study, 34 high school students were given questionnaires containing ten scenarios depicting realistic events followed by an outcome. Each outcome was followed by two individual explanations and a conjoint explanation. Participants were asked to rate the likelihood that these explained the scenario outcome. The control condition contained only those instructions. The mitigation condition contained additional instructions asking participants to consider how sure they were that they were right in their ratings. Results showed that control condition participants showed conjunction effects in 93% of their scenario ratings while mitigation condition participants showed conjunction effects in 76% of their scenario ratings. This difference was statistically significant. This suggests that by self-monitoring, people can achieve at least partial cognitive bias mitigation.
John Leddo, Ivy Liang, Andersen Eudaimon, Yu Chen. Cognitive bias mitigation: Reducing the frequency of conjunction effects in explanations. International Journal of Advanced Education and Research, Volume 5, Issue 6, 2020, Pages 17-19