The Role of Task Demands and Processing Resources in the Use of Base-Rate and Individuating Information

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Abstract

This article addresses the process that governs the use of base-rate and individuating information. Five experiments demonstrated that, for both, informational length and order of presentation (determining processing difficulty) interact with the recipients' processing resources to determine use. In cases in which the base-rate or the individuating information is brief and/or is presented early, the tendency to use it is greater under limited cognitive resources (cognitive load) than under ample cognitive resources. In contrast, in cases in which the base-rate or the individuating information is lengthy and/or is presented late in the informational sequence, the tendency to use it is greater under ample versus limited resources. These results suggest the appropriateness of conceptually decoupling informational contents (having to do with base rates or individuating descriptions) from the task demands (processing ease or difficulty) that a given judgmental problem presents and that may require different amounts of processing resources.

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