Wanting something to happen doesn't make it more likely to occur. However, we have found that people tend to inflate the likelihood of their desired outcomes happening and, therefore, prepare for the desired outcome. This can, of course, cause people to be underprepared for undesired outcomes. We have also looked at how desire influences how people search for information, and how factors like people’s current mood might influence their tendency to engage in wishful thinking.
People must often make judgments about the average or typical member of a group. For example, a teacher might estimate how well his students, on average, understood his lecture. Or, a coach might estimate the speed of the typical player on an opposing team. People are actually fairly good at making these types of average judgment. However, we have also found that people are predictably biased. People’s estimates tend to increase as the number of people in the group increase—that is, they exhibit a sample size bias.
Should I get a flu shot this winter? My decision should be in part determined by my perceived likelihood of getting the flu. If my risk assessment is low, I don’t need to get a flu shot. Assessing one’s risk, however, is not easy. Even when people have access to accurate statistics, it isn’t always clear what action one should take (e.g., is a 10% chance of getting the flu enough to warrant getting a flu shot?). My research in this area focuses on how people form these impressions of risk and how their impressions inform their behaviors.
Price, P. C. & Kimura, N. M., Smith, A. R., & Marshall, L. D. (in press). Sample size bias in judgments of perceptual averages. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition.
Suls, J., Rose, J. P., Windschitl, P. D., & Smith, A. R. (2013). Optimism following a tornado disaster. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 39, 691-702. [PDF]
Smith, A. R., Windschitl, P. D., & Bruchmann, K. (2013). Knowledge matters: Anchoring effects are moderated by knowledge level. European Journal of Social Psychology, 43, 97-108. [PDF]
Windschitl, P. D., Scherer, A. M., Smith, A. R., & Rose, J. P. (2013). Why so confident? The influence of outcome desirability on selective exposure and likelihood judgment. Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, 120, 73-86. [PDF]
Scherer, A. M., Windschitl, P. D., & Smith, A. R. (2013). Hope to be right: Biased information seeking following arbitrary and informed predictions. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 49, 106-112. [PDF]
Rose, J. P., Windschitl, P. D., & Smith, A. R. (2012). Debiasing egocentrism and optimism biases in repeated competitions. Judgment & Decision Making, 7, 761-767. [PDF]
Scherer, A. M., Windschitl, P. D., O'Rourke, J., & Smith, A. R. (2012). Hoping for more: The influence of outcome desirability on information seeking and predictions about relative quantities. Cognition, 125, 113-117. [PDF]
Smith, A. R. & Windschitl, P. D. (2011). Biased calculations: Numeric anchors influence answers to math equations. Judgment and Decision Making, 6, 139-146. [PDF]
Smith, A. R. & Price, P. C. (2010). Sample size bias in the estimation of means. Psychonomic Bulletin & Review, 17, 499-503. [PDF]
Windschitl, P. D., Smith, A. R., Rose, J. P., & Krizan, Z. (2010). The desirability bias in predictions: Going optimistic without leaving realism. Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, 111, 33-47. [PDF]
Windschitl, P. D., Rose, J. P., Stalkfleet, M. T., & Smith, A. R. (2008) Are people excessive or judicious in their egocentrism? A modeling approach to understanding bias and accuracy in people's optimism within competitive contexts. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 95, 253-273. [PDF]
Price, P. C., Smith, A. R., & Lench, H. C. (2006). The effect of target group size on risk judgments and comparative optimism: The more the riskier. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 90, 382-398. [PDF]
University of Iowa
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Social psychology is the study of how our thoughts, feelings, and behaviors are influenced by other people. An emphasis is placed on the influence of the immediate social situation and the importance of our perception of the environment. Social psychology is a broad discipline that addresses topics ranging from social influence to stereotypes to aggression. In this class, students learn the theories and issues in the field, learn how social psychologists conduct research, and learn to identify social psychological phenomena in their daily lives.
The three claims listed above come from headlines on popular web pages. All three have research that presumably supports them, but are these claims justified based on the studies conducted? Students in Research Methods learn how to properly conduct psychological research. Along the way, we spend a great deal of time evaluating and critiqueing studies and claims described in sources that range from the popular media outlets to academic journals.