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Attitudes and Decisions (Eiser and van der Pilgt)

Page history last edited by PBworks 16 years, 9 months ago

Notes on J. Richard Eiser and J. van der Pilgt (1988) Attitudes and Decisions London: Routledge ISBN 9780415011129 (WikiPedia link)


Up: Key References


I don't think this is as significant a book as the others mentioned on this site: I'm making notes on it here because I happen to own it. Still, it is a very useful book with succinct summaries of the heuristics and biases research (about 350 studies are referenced), and detailed application of these insights to questions of addiction, medical communication and nuclear energy.


It's very tempting to call this a book for non-specialists, since most of it is written in an easy to understand way, but it's not as accessible to the lay person as Sutherland's Irrationality: the Enemy Within. The target audience is psychology undergraduates. People with a scientific background are more likely to benefit from Baron's Thinking and Deciding.


Biases and heuristics mentioned in the book


1. The language of attitudes


2. The relationship between attitudes and behaviour

  • cognitive dissonance
  • self-perception and impression management


3. Attribution theory

  • self-serving bias (called "beneffectance" in Greenwald's "The Totalitarian Ego")
  • false consensus effect
    • the illusion that one's choices and attitudes are shared by more other people than they actually are
    • This could be an availability effect (cognitive bias) or a kind of wishful thinking (motivated bias). Evidence seems to confirm the availability explanation.
  • actor-observer divergence
    • = a subject doing a task has a tendency to attribute their behaviour to external causes, whereas someone watching them do the task has a tendency to attribute the behaviour to the subject's personality or other dispositions
    • Found in some experimental contexts, not others; not clear what the required conditions are. Affected by the visual perspective of the observer, for example.
    • [Could this be due to superiority bias giving actors a biased impression of their own propensities?]
  • fundamental attribution error
    • = underestimating the effect of circumstances (external factors) on a person's behaviour


4. Decisions, heuristics and biases

  • subjective expected utility versus prospect theory
    • subjective asymmetry of losses and gains
    • framing effect
  • availability
  • representativeness
    • conjunction fallacy
  • anchoring and adjustment
  • confirmation/disconfirmation biases
  • simplicity
    • i.e. making a complex decision about a multifacted problem by focusing on one dimension
  • commitment - as in cognitive dissonance
  • defensive avoidance and hypervigilance (Janis and Mann (1977)), two features of decision-making under stress:
    • defensive avoidance = avoiding information that might be unfavourable; selective inattention; selective forgetting
    • hypervigilance = "overactive search for information accompanied by the inability to distinguish between relevant and irrelevant information"
  • groupthink


5. Health attitudes, attributions and addiction


6. Medical communication and judgement


7. Nuclear energy, risk perception and attitudes


8. Conclusions

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