Explaining Individual Differences in the Cognitive Processes Underlying Hindsight Bias

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Thesis type
(Dissertation) Ph.D.
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Outcome knowledge influences recall of earlier predictions of an event. Compared to younger adults, older adults are more susceptible to the two underlying bias processes that contribute to this hindsight bias (HB) phenomenon, recollection bias and reconstruction bias. However, the role of cognitive abilities in these processes remains unclear. In Experiment 1, we extended the multinomial processing tree model for HB by incorporating individual variation in cognitive abilities into parameter estimation in a sample of 60 older (M = 72.50, range = 65 to 87) and 62 younger (M = 20.10, range = 18 to 25) adults. In older adults, our findings revealed that (1) higher episodic memory was associated with higher recollection ability in the absence of outcome knowledge, (2) higher episodic memory, inhibitory control, and working memory capacity were associated with higher recollection ability in the presence of outcome knowledge, and (3) higher inhibitory control was associated with less reconstruction bias. Although the pattern of effects was similar in younger adults, the cognitive covariates did not significantly predict the underlying processes in this age group. In Experiment 2, we collected memory judgment HB data on an additional 80 older adults (M = 71.40, range = 65 to 87) to assess whether a) experimentally increasing inhibition demands via outcome rehearsal during the HB task impacts the underlying HB processes, and b) the effects of this cognitive load manipulation on the underlying HB processes vary with an individuals’ inherent cognitive abilities. Our findings revealed that cognitive load increased recollection bias independently of individuals’ cognitive abilities. Conversely, cognitive load only increased reconstruction bias in individuals with high inhibitory control, resulting in these individuals performing similarly to individuals with low inhibitory control. Our findings support the role of inhibitory control in older adults’ recollection and reconstruction biases, and suggest that even high functioning individuals are susceptible to HB when available processing resources are limited.
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Thesis advisor: Thornton, Wendy
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