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Monday, August 29, 2022

Debiasing System 1: Training favours logical over stereotypical intuiting

Boissin, E, Caparos, S., Voudouri, A, & DeNeys, W.
Judgment and Decision Making, Vol. 17, No. 4, 
July 2022, pp. 646–690


Whereas people’s reasoning is often biased by intuitive stereotypical associations, recent debiasing studies suggest that performance can be boosted by short training interventions that stress the underlying problem logic. The nature of this training effect remains unclear. Does training help participants correct erroneous stereotypical intuitions through deliberation? Or does it help them develop correct intuitions? We addressed this issue in four studies with base-rate neglect and conjunction fallacy problems. We used a two-response paradigm in which participants first gave an initial intuitive response, under time pressure and cognitive load, and then gave a final response after deliberation. Studies 1A and 2A showed that training boosted performance and did so as early as the intuitive stage. After training, most participants
solved the problems correctly from the outset and no longer needed to correct an initial incorrect answer through deliberation. Studies 1B and 2B indicated that this sound intuiting persisted over at least two months. The findings confirm that a short training can debias reasoning at an intuitive “System 1” stage and get reasoners to favour logical over stereotypical intuitions.

From the General Discussion

Traditionally, it is assumed in the literature that debiasing interventions work by boosting deliberation and get people to better correct erroneous intuitions (Lilienfeld et al., 2009; Milkman et al., 2009). However, in many daily life situations reasoners will simply not have the time (or resources) to engage in costly deliberation. Hence, if our interventionsonly taught participants to deliberate more, they would be less than optimal (Boissin et al., 2021). As with most educational settings, we ultimately do not only want people to correct erroneous intuitions but to avoid biased intuitions altogether (Evans, 2019; Milkman et al., 2009; Reyna et al., 2015; Stanovich, 2018). The present study indicates that debiasing interventions in which the problem logic is briefly explained have such potential.

To avoid misinterpretation, it is important to highlight that our training did not lead to transfer effects. The training should thus not be conceived as a panacea that magically tunes the whole System 1 in one single stop. The training results generalized to base-rate and conjunction tasks, with overall similar effects across the two types of tasks, showing that participants can be trained to intuit correctly with different types of reasoning problems.  However, training base-rates did not help to solve the conjunction fallacy or other unrelated problems, and vice versa. The training effects were task specific. Reasoners did not learn to intuit (or deliberate) better in general. They got better at the very specific problem they were trained at. This fits with the finding that existing debiasing or cognitive training programs are often task or domain specific (Lilienfeld et al., 2009; Sala & Gobet, 2019; but also see Morewedge et al., 2015; Trouche et al., 2014). Our key finding is that this task specific training can play at the intuitive level and is persistent. When we talk about “System 1 debiasing” it should be conceived at this task specific level.