Knowledge and Communication

I Know Why You Voted for Trump: (Over)inferring Motives Based on Choice

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People often speculate about why others make the choices they do. This paper investigates how such inferences are formed as a function of what is chosen. Specifically, when observers encounter someone else's choice (e.g., of political candidate), they use the chosen option's attribute values (e.g., a candidate's specific stance on a policy issue) to infer the importance of that attribute (e.g., the policy issue) to the decision-maker. Consequently, when a chosen option has an attribute whose value is extreme (e.g., an extreme policy stance), observers infer--sometimes incorrectly--that this attribute disproportionately motivated the decision-maker's choice. Seven studies demonstrate how observers use an attribute's value to infer its weight-the value-weight heuristic-and identify the role of perceived diagnosticity: more extreme attribute values give observers the subjective sense that they know more about a decision-maker's preferences, and in turn, increase the attribute's perceived importance. The paper explores how this heuristic can produce erroneous inferences and influence broader beliefs about decision-makers.
Bibliographic citation: Barasz, Kate; Kim, Tami; Evangelidis, Ioannis, "I Know Why You Voted for Trump: (Over)inferring Motives Based on Choice", Cognition, (Forthcoming)
Date: 08/05/2018
Author(s): Barasz, Kate; Kim, Tami; Evangelidis, Ioannis
Document type: Article in Journal (refereed)
Languages: English