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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Calibration information reduces bias during estimation of factorials: A (partial) replication and extension of Tversky and Kahneman (1973)

  • Author(s): Bye, Jeffrey K.;
  • Marupudi, Vijay;
  • Park, Jimin;
  • Varma, Sashank
  • et al.

Tversky and Kahneman (1973) found that, under time pressure, people massively underestimated the expansion of 8! (correct value 40,320), and this bias was mitigated for participants presented the descending (8x7x6x5x4x3x2x1; Median=2,250) vs. ascending order (1x2x3x4x5x6x7x8; Median=512). In a first-ever replication (N=140), we also found predominant underestimation, but no significant between-subjects descending vs. ascending order effect. However, when participants then estimated the opposite order, we reproduced this order effect within-subjects. Finally, participants received calibration information (the correct value of 6! or 10!) and again estimated both orders of 8!. Participants who received 10! made more accurate estimates for 8! (Median=38,000), which did not differ statistically from the correct value. Participants who received 6! still grossly underestimated (Median=2,678.5), despite 8! being closer to 6! than 10! in linear and log units. Thus, we surprisingly found the classic factorial estimation bias only within-subjects, and provide evidence for how calibration can reduce it.

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