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A Review of “Counterfactual thinking
and the first instinct fallacy” by Kruger,
Wirtz, and Miller (2005)
BY RICHARD THRIPP...
What is counterfactual thinking?
• A psychological concept (definitions may
differ in other fields or among laypersons)
•T...
What are counterfactual thoughts?
• “Counterfactual thoughts are mental
representations of alternatives to past events,
ac...
What are counterfactual thoughts?
• People who practice counterfactual thinking
often think about “something that did not
...
What is the first instinct fallacy?
• A term that seems to have been coined in 2004 by
Justin Kruger
• The incorrect idea ...
Study 1: Method
• Examined eraser marks on multiple-choice exams
from 1561 introductory undergraduate psychology
students
...
Study 1: Results
• 51 college students predicted, on average that 33%
of switches would be wrong–right and 42% would
be ri...
Study 2: Method and Results
• 23 college students read a scenario about switching
answers on a multiple-choice exam
• They...
Study 3: Method and Results
• 27 college students were given multiple-choice SAT
or GRE questions and were asked to indica...
Image source: www.erichernandezministries.com/category/blog/
Study 4: Method
• 68 college students watched a mock video of a
modified version of the TV show, Who Wants to Be
a Million...
Study 4: Results
• Overall, participants who watched the contestant
constantly switch answers reported being much
more ang...
Image source: www.erichernandezministries.com/category/blog/
The authors assert:
• Switching from a right answer to a wrong one is
more memorable and regrettable than sticking with
or...
The authors assert:
• Given the veracity of the data, the authors assert a
causal relationship where preferential memory f...
Deal or No Deal is a popular TV show that
exemplifies counterfactual thought and the
first instinct fallacy:
Participants ...
Technically, the “first instinct
fallacy” is present in this example
only insofar as there is no
statistical benefit from ...
From the Deal or No Deal
example, we can see that even
with completely random, 50/50
odds, the first instinct fallacy is
s...
The Monty Hall problem: Based on a
scenario from Let’s Make a Deal (premiered
1963) and named after the show’s host.
Relat...
The Monty Hall problem: Based on a
scenario from Let’s Make a Deal (premiered
1963) and named after the show’s host.
Relat...
Discussion: Implications for collaboration
• In academic and workplace group projects,
who would be seen as more competent...
Discussion: Relation to other fallacies
• False attribution and self-serving bias
• Gambler’s fallacy, winning streaks, an...
References
Epstude, K., & Roese, N. J. (2008). The functional theory of counterfactual thinking. Personality and
Social Ps...
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A Review of “Counterfactual thinking and the first instinct fallacy” by Kruger, Wirtz, & Miller (2005)

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A Review of “Counterfactual thinking and the first instinct fallacy” by Kruger, Wirtz, & Miller (2005)

Created by Richard Thripp as an assignment for EXP 6506: Cognition and Learning class at University of Central Florida, to help the class understand this journal article.

Presented: 11/05/2015.

References:

Epstude, K., & Roese, N. J. (2008). The functional theory of counterfactual thinking. Personality and Social Psychology Review, 12(2), 168–192.

Kruger, J., Wirtz, D., & Miller, D. T. (2005). Counterfactual thinking and the first instinct fallacy. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 88, 725–735.

Source URLs for images used are at the bottom of each applicable slide.

They are not included in the above references.

Published in: Education
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A Review of “Counterfactual thinking and the first instinct fallacy” by Kruger, Wirtz, & Miller (2005)

  1. 1. A Review of “Counterfactual thinking and the first instinct fallacy” by Kruger, Wirtz, and Miller (2005) BY RICHARD THRIPP EXP 6506 – UNIVERSITY OF CENTRAL FLORIDA NOVEMBER 5, 2015
  2. 2. What is counterfactual thinking? • A psychological concept (definitions may differ in other fields or among laypersons) •Thoughts that are “counter to the facts,” specifically thoughts about hypothetical alternatives to past events that often inspire frustration and regret. • Past-oriented (or possibly present-oriented), NOT future-oriented
  3. 3. What are counterfactual thoughts? • “Counterfactual thoughts are mental representations of alternatives to past events, actions, or states. They are epitomized by the phrase “what might have been,” which implicates a juxtaposition of an imagined versus factual state of affairs” (Epstude & Roese, 2008).
  4. 4. What are counterfactual thoughts? • People who practice counterfactual thinking often think about “something that did not happen that they wished had happened or something that did happen that they wished had not happened” (Kruger, Wirtz, & Miller, 2005, p. 732).
  5. 5. What is the first instinct fallacy? • A term that seems to have been coined in 2004 by Justin Kruger • The incorrect idea that “gut feelings” or first instincts are more likely to be right, even though the research, at least with respect to academic settings, says otherwise. • Sustained and reinforced by counterfactual thinking
  6. 6. Study 1: Method • Examined eraser marks on multiple-choice exams from 1561 introductory undergraduate psychology students •51 of 1561 students randomly selected to provide their feedback on what they thought the overall outcomes would be
  7. 7. Study 1: Results • 51 college students predicted, on average that 33% of switches would be wrong–right and 42% would be right–wrong. However, in actuality, 51% were wrong–right switches and only 25% were right– wrong. • This means that switching answers was the correct move more than twice as often, but students still cling to the belief that it is a bad move!
  8. 8. Study 2: Method and Results • 23 college students read a scenario about switching answers on a multiple-choice exam • They are then asked what would make them feel more foolish or regretful • In all cases more than three times as many students said they would regret right–wrong switches more than sticking with a wrong answer!
  9. 9. Study 3: Method and Results • 27 college students were given multiple-choice SAT or GRE questions and were asked to indicate TWO answers and mark one as their “first instinct” if they could not decide between two answers. • On a follow-up questionnaire given 4–6 weeks later (n = 19), students remembered sticking with their first instinct and being right significantly more often than what really happened.
  10. 10. Image source: www.erichernandezministries.com/category/blog/
  11. 11. Study 4: Method • 68 college students watched a mock video of a modified version of the TV show, Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?, imagining they were teammates with the contestant. • In both conditions, the contestant in the video got 10 of 20 questions right. • In one condition, the contestant always stuck with their answer, and in the other, always switched.
  12. 12. Study 4: Results • Overall, participants who watched the contestant constantly switch answers reported being much more angry and frustrated. • They were more critical of the contestant’s strategies and abilities. • This occurred even though the contestant got the same proportion of questions right in both videos.
  13. 13. Image source: www.erichernandezministries.com/category/blog/
  14. 14. The authors assert: • Switching from a right answer to a wrong one is more memorable and regrettable than sticking with or fixing a wrong answer, even though right–wrong switches are statistically uncommon. • Sticking with your first instinct is considered good, “common sense” advice, even among educated people, but in reality it is very bad advice.
  15. 15. The authors assert: • Given the veracity of the data, the authors assert a causal relationship where preferential memory for right–wrong switches, along with feelings of regret, cause people to overestimate the effectiveness of going with their first instincts (p. 729).
  16. 16. Deal or No Deal is a popular TV show that exemplifies counterfactual thought and the first instinct fallacy: Participants are asked to choose a suitcase which may be worth from 1¢ to $1,000,000. They are then asked to choose suitcases from the field to eliminate, with the hope that they eliminate suitcases with small amounts, improving their overall odds. [At various times in the game, they may “cash in” with the “banker” for somewhat less than the average value of all remaining (unopened) suitcases.] Participants who continue to the end have the option of switching suitcases (when there are only two left to choose from). Image source: http://macmedia.ign.com/mac/image/object/898/898888/Deal-or-No-Deal_Wii_US_ESRB.jpg
  17. 17. Technically, the “first instinct fallacy” is present in this example only insofar as there is no statistical benefit from keeping the original suitcase (though our minds may think otherwise). However, unlike in the findings of Kruger et al. and the Monty Hall problem, sticking with our first instinct is not a worse choice in the Deal or No Deal example (the choices are equivalent). Screenshot is from the Microsoft Windows “Deal or No Deal” game by “Endorsay.” Image source: www.microsoft.com/en-us/store/apps/deal-or-no-deal/9wzdncrfhvhd
  18. 18. From the Deal or No Deal example, we can see that even with completely random, 50/50 odds, the first instinct fallacy is still present! Watching the show is torturous—participants display numerous superstitions, logical fallacies (including the gambler’s fallacy), character foibles, and rampant counterfactual thought patterns in a game devoid of skill or content. Fortunately, there is no “phone a friend” option. Note: The 26 suitcases have a total value of $3,418,416.01 and an average value of $131,477.54. Screenshot is from the Adobe Flash “Deal or No Deal” game by NBC. Image source: http://sun0.cs.uca.edu/~pyoung/teaching/archive/CSCI3381_Sp12/projects/Project2/Project 2 Assignment- Deal-or-No-Deal-Write-Up.htm
  19. 19. The Monty Hall problem: Based on a scenario from Let’s Make a Deal (premiered 1963) and named after the show’s host. Related to the first instinct fallacy. Scenario: You choose from 1 of 3 doors. 2 doors have goats behind them and 1 has a new car. Monty then opens 1 of the doors you did NOT pick, revealing a goat. You are then asked if you want to stick with your door or switch doors. Are both options equal? Image source: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Monty_open_door.svg
  20. 20. The Monty Hall problem: Based on a scenario from Let’s Make a Deal (premiered 1963) and named after the show’s host. Related to the first instinct fallacy. Scenario: You choose from 1 of 3 doors. 2 doors have goats behind them and 1 has a new car. Monty then opens 1 of the doors you did NOT pick, revealing a goat. You are then asked if you want to stick with your door or switch doors. Are both options equal? Counterintuitively, because Monty could only open a door that you did NOT pick that also did NOT have the new car behind it, the door you initially picked now has a 1/3 chance of having the new car, while the other remaining door has a 2/3 chance. Therefore, you should switch doors. Image source: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Monty_open_door.svg
  21. 21. Discussion: Implications for collaboration • In academic and workplace group projects, who would be seen as more competent? Someone who sticks with their decision and is right 50% of the time? Or someone who switches and is right 60% of the time? • (Recall the exceedingly high statistical power Kruger et al. had for many of their results, and particularly, perceptions of the teammate in Study 4.)
  22. 22. Discussion: Relation to other fallacies • False attribution and self-serving bias • Gambler’s fallacy, winning streaks, and the human tendency to see illusory patterns • Fundamental attribution error versus emergent conflicting information about a person • Monty Hall problem • Anything else you want to talk about
  23. 23. References Epstude, K., & Roese, N. J. (2008). The functional theory of counterfactual thinking. Personality and Social Psychology Review, 12(2), 168–192. Kruger, J., Wirtz, D., & Miller, D. T. (2005). Counterfactual thinking and the first instinct fallacy. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 88, 725–735. Source URLs for images used are at the bottom of each applicable slide. They are not included in the above references.

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