Univariate and Default Standard Unit Biases in Estimation of Body Weight and Caloric Content

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College students estimated the weight of adult women from either photographs or a live presentation by a set of models and estimated the calories in 1 of 2 actual meals. The 2 meals had the same items, but 1 had larger portion sizes than the other. The results suggest: (a) Judgments are biased toward transforming the example in question to the size and/or properties of a “standard” unit. For estimates of body weight, students assigned weights assuming a standard height, even though height information was provided in the photographs or directly present with live models. (b) There is an inclination to focus on 1 aspect or dimension of the stimulus (e.g., for female figures, their width, for meals the identity of the components as opposed to their size) and either devalue or completely ignore another parameter critical for accurate judgment (height, for the case of body weight estimations). That is, students defaulted to a normative unit size and thus treated the stimulus as a representative, categorical, and unvarying example, and focused on only 1 dimension (univariate bias) in making judgments.

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