Verbal and numeric probabilities differentially shape decisions

Thinking and Reasoning 30 (1):235-257 (2024)
  Copy   BIBTEX

Abstract

Experts often communicate probabilities verbally (e.g., unlikely) rather than numerically (e.g., 25% chance). Although criticism has focused on the vagueness of verbal probabilities, less attention has been given to the potential unintended, biasing effects of verbal probabilities in communicating probabilities to decision-makers. In four experiments (Ns = 201, 439, 435, 696), we showed that probability format (i.e., verbal vs. numeric) influenced participants’ inferences and decisions following a hypothetical financial expert’s forecast. We observed a format effect for low probability forecasts: verbal probabilities were interpreted more pessimistically than numeric equivalents. We attributed the difference to directionality, a linguistic property that biases attention toward an outcome. In the high-probability conditions, the directionality of verbal and numeric probabilities aligned (both were positive), whereas they differed in the low-probability conditions (verbal probabilities were more negative). Participants inferred recommendations congruent with the communicated direction and these inferences mediated the effect of probability format on decisions.

Links

PhilArchive



    Upload a copy of this work     Papers currently archived: 92,369

External links

Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server

Through your library

Similar books and articles

Numerical representation, math skills, memory, and decision-making.Ellen Peters & Alan Castel - 2009 - Behavioral and Brain Sciences 32 (3-4):347-348.
The Irrelevance of the Risk-Uncertainty Distinction.Dominic Roser - 2017 - Science and Engineering Ethics 23 (5):1387-1407.
A Consistent Set of Infinite-Order Probabilities.David Atkinson & Jeanne Peijnenburg - 2013 - International Journal of Approximate Reasoning 54:1351-1360.
Measuring psychological uncertainty: Verbal versus numeric methods.Paul D. Windschitl & Gary L. Wells - 1996 - Journal of Experimental Psychology: Applied 2 (4):343.
New Tools for Theory Choice and Theory Diagosis.John R. Welch - 2013 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A 44 (3):318-329.
New tools for theory choice and theory diagnosis.John R. Welch - 2013 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A 44 (3):318-329.
Probabilities in decision rules.Paul Weirich - 2010 - In Ellery Eells & James H. Fetzer (eds.), The Place of Probability in Science. Springer. pp. 289--319.

Analytics

Added to PP
2023-06-17

Downloads
10 (#1,200,215)

6 months
5 (#648,618)

Historical graph of downloads
How can I increase my downloads?