Conflict detection in dual-process theory: Are we good at detecting when we are biased at decision making?
Pennycook, Gordon Robert
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In the domain of reasoning and decision making, some dual-process theorists have suggested that people are highly efficient at detecting conflicting outputs engendered by competing intuitive and analytic processes (De Neys & Glumicic, 2008; De Neys, Vartanian & Goel, 2008). For example, De Neys and Glumicic (2008) demonstrated that participants’ reason longer about problems that are characterized by a conflict between a stereotypical personality description and a base-rate probability of group membership. Crucially, this increase occurred even when participants gave the nominally erroneous stereotypical response (i.e., “neglecting” the base-rate probability), indicating that their participants detected that there was a conflict and, as a result, engaged in slow, analytic processing to resolve it. However, this finding, and much of the additional support for the efficient conflict detection hypothesis, has come from base-rate neglect problems constructed with probabilities (e.g., 995 doctors and 5 nurses) that were much more extreme than typically used in studies of base-rate neglect. I varied the base-rate probabilities over five experiments and compared participants’ response time for conflict problems with non-conflict problems. It was demonstrated that the integral increase in response time for stereotypical responses to conflict problems was fully mediated by extreme probabilities. I conclude that humans are not as efficient at detecting when they are engaging in biased reasoning as De Neys and colleagues have claimed.