Memory accessibility shapes explanation: Testing key claims of the inherence heuristic account

Larisa J. Hussak, Andrei Cimpian

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

People understand the world by constructing explanations for what they observe. It is thus important to identify the cognitive processes underlying these judgments. According to a recent proposal, everyday explanations are often constructed heuristically: Because people need to generate explanations on a moment-by-moment basis, they cannot perform an exhaustive search through the space of possible reasons, but may instead use the information that is most easily accessible in memory (Cimpian & Salomon 2014a, b). In the present research, we tested two key claims of this proposal that have so far not been investigated. First, we tested whether—as previously hypothesized—the information about an entity that is most accessible in memory tends to consist of inherent or intrinsic facts about that entity, rather than extrinsic (contextual, historical, etc.) facts about it (Studies 1 and 2). Second, we tested the implications of this difference in the memory accessibility of inherent versus extrinsic facts for the process of generating explanations: Does the fact that inherent facts are more accessible than relevant extrinsic facts give rise to an inherence bias in the content of the explanations generated (Studies 3 and 4)? The findings supported the proposal that everyday explanations are generated in part via a heuristic process that relies on easily accessible—and often inherent—information from memory.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1-21
Number of pages21
JournalMemory and Cognition
DOIs
StateAccepted/In press - Aug 23 2017

Fingerprint

Accessibility
Heuristics
Testing
Research
Extrinsic
Entity
Intrinsic
Cognitive Processes
Contextual

Keywords

  • Accessibility
  • Explanation
  • Heuristics
  • Inherence heuristic
  • Memory

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)

Cite this

Memory accessibility shapes explanation : Testing key claims of the inherence heuristic account. / Hussak, Larisa J.; Cimpian, Andrei.

In: Memory and Cognition, 23.08.2017, p. 1-21.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

@article{05b217d74d9e4145b7f246d1a815a4e8,
title = "Memory accessibility shapes explanation: Testing key claims of the inherence heuristic account",
abstract = "People understand the world by constructing explanations for what they observe. It is thus important to identify the cognitive processes underlying these judgments. According to a recent proposal, everyday explanations are often constructed heuristically: Because people need to generate explanations on a moment-by-moment basis, they cannot perform an exhaustive search through the space of possible reasons, but may instead use the information that is most easily accessible in memory (Cimpian & Salomon 2014a, b). In the present research, we tested two key claims of this proposal that have so far not been investigated. First, we tested whether—as previously hypothesized—the information about an entity that is most accessible in memory tends to consist of inherent or intrinsic facts about that entity, rather than extrinsic (contextual, historical, etc.) facts about it (Studies 1 and 2). Second, we tested the implications of this difference in the memory accessibility of inherent versus extrinsic facts for the process of generating explanations: Does the fact that inherent facts are more accessible than relevant extrinsic facts give rise to an inherence bias in the content of the explanations generated (Studies 3 and 4)? The findings supported the proposal that everyday explanations are generated in part via a heuristic process that relies on easily accessible—and often inherent—information from memory.",
keywords = "Accessibility, Explanation, Heuristics, Inherence heuristic, Memory",
author = "Hussak, {Larisa J.} and Andrei Cimpian",
year = "2017",
month = "8",
day = "23",
doi = "10.3758/s13421-017-0746-8",
language = "English (US)",
pages = "1--21",
journal = "Memory and Cognition",
issn = "0090-502X",
publisher = "Springer New York",

}

TY - JOUR

T1 - Memory accessibility shapes explanation

T2 - Testing key claims of the inherence heuristic account

AU - Hussak, Larisa J.

AU - Cimpian, Andrei

PY - 2017/8/23

Y1 - 2017/8/23

N2 - People understand the world by constructing explanations for what they observe. It is thus important to identify the cognitive processes underlying these judgments. According to a recent proposal, everyday explanations are often constructed heuristically: Because people need to generate explanations on a moment-by-moment basis, they cannot perform an exhaustive search through the space of possible reasons, but may instead use the information that is most easily accessible in memory (Cimpian & Salomon 2014a, b). In the present research, we tested two key claims of this proposal that have so far not been investigated. First, we tested whether—as previously hypothesized—the information about an entity that is most accessible in memory tends to consist of inherent or intrinsic facts about that entity, rather than extrinsic (contextual, historical, etc.) facts about it (Studies 1 and 2). Second, we tested the implications of this difference in the memory accessibility of inherent versus extrinsic facts for the process of generating explanations: Does the fact that inherent facts are more accessible than relevant extrinsic facts give rise to an inherence bias in the content of the explanations generated (Studies 3 and 4)? The findings supported the proposal that everyday explanations are generated in part via a heuristic process that relies on easily accessible—and often inherent—information from memory.

AB - People understand the world by constructing explanations for what they observe. It is thus important to identify the cognitive processes underlying these judgments. According to a recent proposal, everyday explanations are often constructed heuristically: Because people need to generate explanations on a moment-by-moment basis, they cannot perform an exhaustive search through the space of possible reasons, but may instead use the information that is most easily accessible in memory (Cimpian & Salomon 2014a, b). In the present research, we tested two key claims of this proposal that have so far not been investigated. First, we tested whether—as previously hypothesized—the information about an entity that is most accessible in memory tends to consist of inherent or intrinsic facts about that entity, rather than extrinsic (contextual, historical, etc.) facts about it (Studies 1 and 2). Second, we tested the implications of this difference in the memory accessibility of inherent versus extrinsic facts for the process of generating explanations: Does the fact that inherent facts are more accessible than relevant extrinsic facts give rise to an inherence bias in the content of the explanations generated (Studies 3 and 4)? The findings supported the proposal that everyday explanations are generated in part via a heuristic process that relies on easily accessible—and often inherent—information from memory.

KW - Accessibility

KW - Explanation

KW - Heuristics

KW - Inherence heuristic

KW - Memory

UR - http://www.scopus.com/inward/record.url?scp=85028301539&partnerID=8YFLogxK

UR - http://www.scopus.com/inward/citedby.url?scp=85028301539&partnerID=8YFLogxK

U2 - 10.3758/s13421-017-0746-8

DO - 10.3758/s13421-017-0746-8

M3 - Article

C2 - 28840543

AN - SCOPUS:85028301539

SP - 1

EP - 21

JO - Memory and Cognition

JF - Memory and Cognition

SN - 0090-502X

ER -