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Fluency misattribution and visual hindsight bias
Daniel M. Bernstein
We tested a fluency-misattribution theory of visual hindsight bias, and examined how perceptual and conceptual fluency contribute to the bias. In Experiment 1a observers identified celebrity faces that began blurred and then clarified (Forward baseline), or indicated when faces that began clear and then blurred were no longer recognisable (Backward baseline). In surprise memory tests that followed, observers adjusted the degree of blur of each face to match what the faces looked like when identified in the corresponding baseline condition. Hindsight bias was observed in the Forward condition: During the memory test observers adjusted the faces to be more blurry than when originally identified during baseline. These same observers did not show hindsight bias in the Backward condition: Here, they adjusted faces to the exact blur level at which they identified the faces during baseline. Experiment 1b tested a combined condition in which faces were viewed in a Forward progression at baseline but in a Backward progression at test. Hindsight bias was observed in this condition but was significantly less than the bias observed in the Experiment 1a Forward condition. Experiments 1a and 1b provide support for the fluency-misattribution account of visual hindsight bias: When observers are made aware of why fluency has been enhanced (i.e., in the Backward condition) they are better able to discount it, and as a result show reduced or no hindsight bias. In Experiment 2, observers viewed faces in a Forward progression at baseline and then in a Forward upright or inverted progression at test. Hindsight bias occurred in both conditions, but was greater for upright than inverted faces. We conclude that both conceptual and perceptual fluency contribute to visual hindsight bias.