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Prevalence-induced concept change in human judgment

Do we think that a problem persists even when it has become less frequent? Levari et al. show experimentally that when the “signal” a person is searching for becomes rare, the person naturally responds by broadening his or her definition of the signal—and therefore continues to find it even when it is not there. From low-level perception of color to higher-level judgments of ethics, there is a robust tendency for perceptual and judgmental standards to “creep” when they ought not to. For example, when blue dots become rare, participants start calling purple dots blue, and when threatening faces become rare, participants start calling neutral faces threatening. This phenomenon has broad implications that may help explain why people whose job is to find and eliminate problems in the world often cannot tell when their work is done. Science , this issue p. [1465][1] [1]: /lookup/doi/10.1126/science.aap8731

Authors:   David E. Levari; Daniel T. Gilbert; Timothy D. Wilson; Beau Sievers; David M. Amodio; Thalia Wheatley
Journal:   Science
Volume:   360
edition:   6396
Year:   2018
Pages:   1465
DOI:   10.1126/science.aap8731
Publication date:   29-Jun-2018
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