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Accuracy in Personality Judgments and a Commentary on Heuristics and Biases Questions

David Funder
Riverside, CA

Our lab, which we now call the Riverside Accuracy Project, continues its research on the process and moderators of accuracy in personality judgment.

To this end, we are in the midst of a new round of major data gathering that includes three-person group interactions recorded on videotape, self-descriptions of personality, peers' descriptions, a clinical interview, and a vast number of personality inventories including the MMPI.

We operationalize accuracy in personality judgment as the convergence among these data sources. For more information, please consult our web page, which is: www.psych.ucr.edu/faculty/funder/rap/Rap.htm

On another Brunswikian front, I recently prepared a commentary on an article soon to appear in Brain and Behavioral Sciences. The article presents evidence of individual differences in performance on Kahneman-Tversky type brainteasers of the sort typically used to argue for the presence of "systematic irrationality." The fascinating fact -- of which the authors of the article make too little, in my opinion -- is that performance on different heuristics/biases tasks are intercorrelated, and correlated with SAT scores! In fact, a psychometric view of these tasks shows that they correlate with each other and with the SAT total score about as well as an actual typical SAT item.

In my commentary, I observe that the presence of "difficult" SAT items -- that is, items that most test-takers get wrong -- has not, as far as I know, ever been used to argue that people are systematically irrational. And yet the existence of the heuristics/biases items, which most people also get wrong but which, like hard SAT items, some people consistently get right, has been used to argue exactly that point. The existence of stable individual differences in performance on heuristics and biases problems means that they amount to little more than demonstrations that some kinds of problems are hard to solve, which SAT has known for years. This still might be useful information, but in this light any claim evaporates that these problems demonstrate fundamental flaws in human cognition. Along with this claim evaporates the very reason the heuristics-and-biases approach became so famous in the first place.

I would be happy to e-mail anyone interested in a copy of this commentary.

Contact David Funder

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