Inferences of personal characteristics on the basis of information retrieved from one's memory

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Conducted 4 experiments with a total of 331 undergraduates to investigate inferences about another person's attributes (e.g., his or her political attitudes) on the basis of information (e.g., the person's voting behavior) retrieved by Ss from their own memory. The inference task required integration of 2 kinds of uncertainty: uncertainty generated by imperfect diagnosticity of the information regarding the attributes under consideration. Results show that Ss relied almost exclusively on the diagnosticity of the information retrieved. The reliability with which the information was retrieved had a small and inconsistent effect on judgment. As a result, the inferences were considerably more extreme than those justified by normative considerations. Findings are interpreted in terms of D. Kahneman and A. Tversky's (see record 1974-02325-001) "representativeness heuristic," and implications of the results with regard to overconfidence in attributing personality traits are discussed. (19 ref) (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2006 APA, all rights reserved).

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)93-106
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of personality and social psychology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 1978


  • information retrieved from memory, inferences of personal characteristics, college students

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Sociology and Political Science


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