True Contextuality Beats Direct Influences in Human Decision Making

Irina Basieva, Víctor H. Cervantes, Ehtibar N. Dzhafarov, Andrei Khrennikov

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In quantum physics there are well-known situations when measurements of the same property in different contexts (under different conditions) have the same probability distribution but cannot be represented by one and the same random variable. Such systems of random variables are called contextual. More generally, true contextuality is observed when different contexts force measurements of the same property (in psychology, responses to the same question) to be more dissimilar random variables than warranted by the difference of their distributions. The difference in distributions is itself a form of context-dependence but of another nature: it is attributable to direct causal influences exerted by contexts upon the random variables. The Contextuality-by-Default theory allows one to separate true contextuality from direct influences in the overall context-dependence. The Contextuality-by-Default analysis of numerous previous attempts to demonstrate contextuality in human judgments shows that all contextdependence in them can be accounted for by direct influences, with no true contextuality present. However, contextual systems in human behavior can be found. In this paper we present a series of crowd-sourcing experiments that exhibit true contextuality in simple decision making. The design of these experiments is an elaboration of one introduced in the Snow Queen experiment (Decision 5, 193-204, 2018), in which contextuality was for the first time demonstrated unequivocally.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1925–1937
JournalJournal of Experimental Psychology: General
Issue number11
StatePublished - 2019
Externally publishedYes


  • Concept combinations
  • Context-dependence
  • Contextuality
  • Direct influences

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Psychology(all)
  • Developmental Neuroscience


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