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Haunted by a doppelgänger: irrelevant facial similarity affects rule-based judgments


von Helversen, Bettina; Herzog, Stefan M; Rieskamp, Jörg (2014). Haunted by a doppelgänger: irrelevant facial similarity affects rule-based judgments. Experimental Psychology, 61(1):12-22.

Abstract

Judging other people is a common and important task. Every day professionals make decisions that affect the lives of other people when they diagnose medical conditions, grant parole, or hire new employees. To prevent discrimination, professional standards require that decision makers render accurate and unbiased judgments solely based on relevant information. Facial similarity to previously encountered persons can be a potential source of bias. Psychological research suggests that people only rely on similarity-based judgment strategies if the provided information does not allow them to make accurate rule-based judgments. Our study shows, however, that facial similarity to previously encountered persons influences judgment even in situations in which relevant information is available for making accurate rule-based judgments and where similarity is irrelevant for the task and relying on similarity is detrimental. In two experiments in an employment context we show that applicants who looked similar to high-performing former employees were judged as more suitable than applicants who looked similar to low-performing former employees. This similarity effect was found despite the fact that the participants used the relevant résumé information about the applicants by following a rule-based judgment strategy. These findings suggest that similarity-based and rule-based processes simultaneously underlie human judgment.

Abstract

Judging other people is a common and important task. Every day professionals make decisions that affect the lives of other people when they diagnose medical conditions, grant parole, or hire new employees. To prevent discrimination, professional standards require that decision makers render accurate and unbiased judgments solely based on relevant information. Facial similarity to previously encountered persons can be a potential source of bias. Psychological research suggests that people only rely on similarity-based judgment strategies if the provided information does not allow them to make accurate rule-based judgments. Our study shows, however, that facial similarity to previously encountered persons influences judgment even in situations in which relevant information is available for making accurate rule-based judgments and where similarity is irrelevant for the task and relying on similarity is detrimental. In two experiments in an employment context we show that applicants who looked similar to high-performing former employees were judged as more suitable than applicants who looked similar to low-performing former employees. This similarity effect was found despite the fact that the participants used the relevant résumé information about the applicants by following a rule-based judgment strategy. These findings suggest that similarity-based and rule-based processes simultaneously underlie human judgment.

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6 citations in Web of Science®
7 citations in Scopus®
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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:06 Faculty of Arts > Institute of Psychology
Dewey Decimal Classification:150 Psychology
Language:English
Date:1 January 2014
Deposited On:03 Mar 2017 10:03
Last Modified:12 Mar 2017 06:09
Publisher:Hogrefe & Huber
ISSN:1618-3169
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.1027/1618-3169/a000221
PubMed ID:23895921

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