Monday, May 5, 2014

The Coherence Effect: Blending Hot and Cold Cognitions


Dan Simon, S.J.D.
Gould School of Law
University of Southern California

Monday, May 5th
12:00-1:00 pm
SBSG 1517



Building on by Cognitive Consistency Theories (articulated in the 1950s and 1960s), previous research has shown that making complex decisions and social judgments entails bi-directional processing — conclusions follow from the decision-maker’s evaluation of the task attributes, while the evaluations of the attributes shift to cohere with the emerging conclusion (attributes that support the conclusion grow stronger, whereas the attributes that support the losing option weaken). The current studies were designed to extend the prior findings by showing that this coherence effect also encompasses hot cognitions.  We find that manipulating the facts of the task (cold cognitions) influences the emotions towards the actors and motivations towards the outcome, just as manipulating emotions and motivation influences cold cognitive judgments.  These results provide support for the proposition that complex judgments and decisions are performed by holistic, connectionist processes that maximize coherence among the myriad of both hot and cold cognitive facets of the task.

Speaker Bio:

Dan Simon is a Richard L. and Maria B. Crutcher Professor of Law and Psychology at the University of Southern California Gould School of Law.  He is the author of In Doubt: The Psychology of the Criminal Justice Process (Harvard University Press, 2012).  His publications in law reviews include “The Limited Diagnosticity of Criminal Trials” (Vanderbilt Law Review, 2011); “A Third View of the Black Box: Cognitive Coherence in Legal Decision Making” (The University of Chicago Law Review, 2004), and “A Psychological Model of Judicial Decision Making” (Rutgers Law Journal, 1988). He has also published a number of articles in experimental psychological journals, including “The Construction of Preferences by Constraint Satisfaction” (Psychological Science, 2004; with co-authors), “The Redux of cognitive consistency theories: Evidence judgments by constraint satisfaction” (Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 2004; with co-authors), and Bidirectional Reasoning in Decision Making by Constraint Satisfaction (Journal of Experimental Psychology—General, 1999, with Keith J. Holyoak).

Professor Simon has been a visiting professor at Yale Law School and Harvard Law School. He earned an S.J.D. degree from Harvard Law School, an MBA from INSEAD in France, and an LL.B. from Tel Aviv University. He worked as an attorney for the Association for Civil Rights in Israel as human rights lawyer on the West Bank.  Before joining the USC Gould School of Law in 1999, Professor Simon was a member of the faculty of the University of Haifa Law School. He serves as an ad hoc referee for academic presses, peer reviewed journals in experimental psychology, and the National Science Foundation.