What is it about?

According to the confidence heuristic, people are confident when they know they are right, and their confidence makes them persuasive. We report 3 experiments to test the heuristic using incentivized interactive decisions with financial outcomes in which pairs of participants with common interests attempted to identify target stimuli after conferring, only 1 pair member having strong information about the target. Experiment 1, through the use of a facial identification task, confirmed the confidence heuristic. Experiment 2, through the use of geometric shapes as stimuli, elicited a much larger confidence heuristic effect. Experiment 3 found similar confidence heuristic effects through both face-to-face and computer-mediated communication channels, suggesting that verbal rather than nonverbal communication drives the heuristic. Suggesting an answer first was typical of pair members with strong evidence and might therefore be a dominant cue that persuades. Our results establish the existence of the confidence heuristic and we discuss circumstances where it may operate, and where it may not.

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Why is it important?

The confidence heuristic has important implications for everyday life, because it facilitates the emergence of truth in a cacophony of falsehood and misinformation. The finding that the confidence heuristic works equally well through computer-mediated communication is important at a time when “fake news” is increasingly being disseminated face-to-face and through Facebook, Twitter, text messages, and other CmCs.

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This page is a summary of: The persuasive power of knowledge: Testing the confidence heuristic., Journal of Experimental Psychology General, August 2018, American Psychological Association (APA), DOI: 10.1037/xge0000471.
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