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Coherence shifts in probabilistic inference tasks



The fast-and-frugal heuristics approach to probabilistic inference assumes that individuals often employ simple heuristics to integrate cue information that commonly function in a non-reciprocal fashion. Specifically, the subjective validity of a certain cue remains stable during the application of a heuristic and is not changed by the presence or absence of another cue. The parallel constraint satisfaction (PCS) model, in contrast, predicts that information is processed in a reciprocal fashion. Specifically, it assumes that subjective cue validities interactively affect each other and are modified to coherently support the favored choice. Corresponding to the model's simulation, we predicted the direction and the size of such coherence shifts. Cue validities were measured before, after (Experiment 1), and during judgment (Experiments 2 and 3). Coherence shifts were found in environments involving real-world cue knowledge (weather forecasts) and in a domain for which the application of fast-and-frugal heuristics has been demonstrated (city-size tasks). The results indicate that subjective cue validities are not fixed parameters, but that they are interactively changed to form coherent representations of the task. Copyright © 2009 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.