Colorado State UniversityResearch focus: Human memory
Cognitive biases affect decision-making in many realms, from on-the-fly judgments that we make about others to the kind of quick thinking required in an emergency. Dr. Cleary and her students recently discovered a new type of cognitive bias brought on by subjective feelings of memory.
An example is the tip-of-the-tongue state, which is when a word feels like it is right there on the verge of access but not quite accessible. Tip-of-the-tongue states bias people’s judgments of things like how risk-taking to be or a person’s trustworthiness.
Dr. Cleary’s team found that, when experiencing a tip-of-the-tongue state, people feel more inclined to take an unrelated gamble in that moment. Also, celebrities whose names are on the tip-of-the-tongue are judged as more likely to be ethical people. Another subjective feeling of memory that can be biasing is the déjà vu state (a feeling of having experienced something before even when not).
Dr. Cleary recently discovered that when people report experiencing déjà vu, there is often an associated feeling of being able to predict what happens next, even when that is not the case. This type of prediction bias can have real-world implications as well: When experiencing déjà vu (or even similar milder feelings of familiarity), people may erroneously think that they know what is going to happen next when they do not. This may lead people to make poor decisions in some situations. Dr. Cleary and her team are trying to better understand how to mitigate these biases in the real-world. Visit Dr. Cleary’s Human Memory Lab.
Reach out to Dr. Cleary on Twitter to say THANK YOU for the psychological research that she does! And be sure to use the hashtag #thankascientist.