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Decision Strategies and the Confidence–Accuracy Relationship in Face Recognition


  • This research was supported under Australian Research Council's Discovery Projects funding scheme (project numbers DP0556876 and DP0878901).

Correspondence to: Nathan Weber, School of Psychology, Flinders University, GPO Box 2100 Adelaide, South Australia 5001, Australia. E-mail:


The decision strategy used to select a choice set from an array of alternative options is known to affect the composition of the final choice set. Specifically, individuals incorporate more answers into their choice set when it is created by eliminating implausible items than when the set is created through the inclusion of plausible options. This difference is accounted for in a decision framework that posits a general reluctance to change the status quo (i.e., actively include or exclude an item). We extended this work to investigate, not only the decisions themselves, but also metacognitive judgments (i.e., confidence in the accuracy of the choice set). In two face recognition experiments, we tested the impact of decision strategy (Experiment 1) and confidence judgment strategy (Experiment 2) on the confidence–accuracy relationship. In Experiment 1, participants completed two blocks of recognition trials, one under inclusion (marking previously seen faces) and one under elimination (marking previously unseen faces) instructions. We observed superior resolution (i.e., discrimination between correct and incorrect) for inclusion trials, but only when they were completed prior to use of the elimination strategy. In Experiment 2, all participants completed face recognition trials under inclusion instructions, but we manipulated the strategy used to assess confidence. Again, we observed a significant impact of strategy on confidence–accuracy resolution. Thus, we observed that both the strategy employed to reach a decision and that employed to assess confidence affected the confidence–accuracy relationship. We discuss theoretical and applied (particularly for eyewitness identification and multiple-choice testing) implications. Copyright © 2012 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.