Exemplar retrieval in preferential judgments
Abstract: Research on inferential judgments from multiple cues suggests that judgments are influenced by the retrieval of past instances (exemplars) stored in memory. Yet, on the process level little evidence exists that would allow a similar conclusion for preferential judgments, where there is no objective criterion to which a judgment can be compared. This study aimed to test if exemplar retrieval may also play a role in preferential judgments. In Experiment 1, half of the participants judged how much they would like smoothies consisting of different ingredients (preference condition) and the other half judged how much another person would like the presented smoothies (inference condition). In Experiment 2, all participants engaged in preferential judgments, but with or without instructions to respond as consistently as possible. To trace memory retrieval, we recorded eye movements. Eye movements can be used to trace information search in memory, because when retrieving information, people look at spatial locations that have been associated with retrieval-relevant information but that are empty during judgment of new objects (“looking-at-nothing” behavior). The results show that people looked at exemplar locations in both inferential and preferential judgments, and both with and without instructions to respond as consistently as possible. The more they looked to the most similar exemplar location, the more closely related were test and training judgments of the respective exemplar. The results suggest that people may rely on previously encountered exemplars also in preferential judgments and highlight the usefulness of studying eye movements “to nothing” to better understand the role of memory in judgment.
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