Auditory Hindsight Bias: Fluency Misattribution Versus Memory Reconstruction

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We report 4 experiments investigating auditory hindsight bias—the tendency to overestimate the intelligibility of distorted auditory stimuli after learning their identity. An associative priming manipulation was used to vary the amount of processing fluency independently of prior target knowledge. For hypothetical designs, in which hindsight judgments are made for peers in foresight, we predicted that judgments would be based on processing fluency and that hindsight bias would be greater in the unrelated- compared to related-prime context (differential-fluency hypothesis). Conversely, for memory designs, in which foresight judgments are remembered in hindsight, we predicted that judgments would be based on memory reconstruction and that there would be independent effects of prime relatedness and prior target knowledge (recollection hypothesis). These predictions were confirmed. Specifically, we found support for the differential-fluency hypothesis when a hypothetical design was used in Experiments 1 and 2 (hypothetical group). Conversely, when a memory design was used in Experiments 2 (memory group), 3A, and 3B, we found support for the recollection hypothesis. Together, the results suggest that qualitatively different mechanisms create hindsight bias in the 2 designs. The results are discussed in terms of fluency misattributions, memory reconstruction, anchoring-and-adjustment, sense making, and a multicomponent model of hindsight bias.

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