Testing hypotheses about other people: The use of historical knowledge

Mark Snyder, Nancy Cantor

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122 Scopus citations


Three experiments were conducted to examine the use of historical knowledge to test contemporary hypotheses about the personal attributes of other people. In the first and second experiments, participants read an extensive account of events in one week of the life of a woman named Jane. Two days later, they used this previously learned information to test hypotheses about Jane's suitability for one of two jobs: either the rather extraverted job of real estate salesperson, or the rather introverted job of research librarian. In their hypothesis-testing activities, participants first reported all those previously learned facts that they regarded as relevant to assessing Jane's suitability for the job under consideration, and then reported their judgments of her job suitability. Participants reported greater amounts of hypothesis-confirming than hypothesis-disconfirming factual material. Moreover, having tested hypotheses about Jane's suitability for one job, participants judged her to be better suited for that job than for the other job. In the third experiment, participants framed hypotheses for assessing job suitability and defined the task of testing these hypotheses. Participants framed hypotheses in terms of those attributes whose presence would confirm the hypotheses and defined the hypothesis-testing task as one of preferentially collecting hypothesis-confirming evidence. The nature and consequences of confirmatory hypothesis-testing strategies are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)330-342
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Experimental Social Psychology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jul 1979

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