Smaller Is Better (When Sampling From the Crowd Within): Low Memory-Span Individuals Benefit More From Multiple Opportunities for Estimation

Kathleen L. Hourihan, Aaron S. Benjamin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Recently, Vul and Pashler (2008) demonstrated that the average of 2 responses from a single subject to general knowledge questions was more accurate than either single estimate. Importantly, this reveals that each guess contributes unique evidence relevant to the decision, contrary to views that eschew probabilistic representations of the evidence-gathering and decision-making processes. We tested an implication of that view by evaluating this effect separately in individuals with a range of memory spans. If memory span is the buffer in which retrieved information is assembled into an evaluation, then multiple estimates in individuals with lower memory spans should exhibit greater independence from one another than in individuals with higher spans. Our results supported this theory by showing that averaging 2 guesses from lower span individuals is more beneficial than averaging 2 guesses from higher span individuals. These results demonstrate a rare circumstance in which lower memory span confers a relative advantage on a cognitive task.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1068-1074
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Experimental Psychology: Learning Memory and Cognition
Volume36
Issue number4
DOIs
StatePublished - Jul 2010

Keywords

  • Estimation
  • Individual differences
  • Working memory

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Linguistics and Language

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