Source Reliability and the Conjunction Fallacy

Authors


should be sent to Andreas Jarvstad, School of Psychology, Cardiff University, Tower Building, Park Place, Cardiff, CF10 3AT, UK. E-mail: jarvstad@cardiff.ac.uk

Abstract

Information generally comes from less than fully reliable sources. Rationality, it seems, requires that one take source reliability into account when reasoning on the basis of such information. Recently, Bovens and Hartmann (2003) proposed an account of the conjunction fallacy based on this idea. They show that, when statements in conjunction fallacy scenarios are perceived as coming from such sources, probability theory prescribes that the “fallacy” be committed in certain situations. Here, the empirical validity of their model was assessed. The model predicts that statements added to standard conjunction problems will change the incidence of the fallacy. It also predicts that statements from reliable sources should yield an increase in fallacy rates (relative to unreliable sources). Neither the former (Experiment 1) nor the latter prediction (Experiment 3) was confirmed, although Experiment 2 showed that people can derive source reliability estimates from the likelihood of statements in a manner consistent with the tested model. In line with the experimental results, model fits and sensitivity analyses also provided very little evidence in favor of the model. This suggests that Bovens and Hartmann’s present model fails to explain fully people’s judgements in standard conjunction fallacy tasks.

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