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Journal Article


Horn SS, Ruggeri A, Pachur T. Dev. Psychol. 2016; 52(9): 1470-1485.


(Copyright © 2016, American Psychological Association)






Judgments about objects in the world are often based on probabilistic information (or cues). A frugal judgment strategy that utilizes memory (i.e., the ability to discriminate between known and unknown objects) as a cue for inference is the recognition heuristic (RH). The usefulness of the RH depends on the structure of the environment, particularly the predictive power (validity) of recognition. Little is known about developmental differences in use of the RH. In this study, the authors examined (a) to what extent children and adolescents recruit the RH when making judgments, and (b) around what age adaptive use of the RH emerges. Primary schoolchildren ( = 9 years), younger adolescents ( = 12 years), and older adolescents ( = 17 years) made comparative judgments in task environments with either high or low recognition validity. Reliance on the RH was measured with a hierarchical multinomial model.

RESULTS indicated that primary schoolchildren already made systematic use of the RH. However, only older adolescents adaptively adjusted their strategy use between environments and were better able to discriminate between situations in which the RH led to correct versus incorrect inferences. These findings suggest that the use of simple heuristics does not progress unidirectionally across development but strongly depends on the task environment, in line with the perspective of ecological rationality. Moreover, adaptive heuristic inference seems to require experience and a developed base of domain knowledge. (PsycINFO Database Record

(c) 2016 APA, all rights reserved).

Language: en


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