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Choice Blindness is a research paradigm originally inspired by techniques from the domain of close-up card-magic, which permits us to manipulate the relationship between what people choose, and what they actually get. We have investigated choice blindness in domains such as aesthetic-, moral-, political- and consumer choice, and in the modalities of vision, voice, taste and smell, and we have consistently found that participants often fail to notice mismatches between what they choose and what they get. In addition, we have found that participants often confabulate arguments why they actually prefer the alternative they had initially rejected. You can read more about choice blindness here.
Political candidates often believe they must focus their campaign efforts on a small number of swing voters open for ideological change. Based on the wisdom of opinion polls, this might seem like a good idea. But do most voters really hold their political attitudes so firmly that they are unreceptive to persuasion? We tested this premise during the most recent general election in Sweden, in which a left- and a right-wing coalition were locked in a close race. We asked our participants to state their voter intention, and presented them with a political survey of wedge issues between the two coalitions. Using a sleight-of-hand we then altered their replies to place them in the opposite political camp, and invited them to reason about their attitudes on the manipulated issues. Finally, we summarized their survey score, and asked for their voter intention again. The results showed that no more than 22% of the manipulated replies were detected, and that a full 92% of the participants accepted and endorsed our altered political survey score. Furthermore, the final voter intention question indicated that as many as 48% were willing to consider a left-right coalition shift. This can be contrasted with the established polls tracking the Swedish election, which registered maximally 10% voters open for a swing. Our results indicate that political attitudes and partisan divisions can be far more flexible than what is assumed by the polls, and that people can reason about the factual issues of the campaign with considerable openness to change.
What exactly are opinions? What does it mean to express an attitude? Given the ubiquitous use of surveys, polls and rating scales, it seems we ought to have firm answers to these fundamental questions, but we do not. Here we present a novel approach to investigate the nature of attitudes. We created a self-transforming paper survey of moral opinions, covering both foundational principles, and current dilemmas hotly debated in the media. This survey ‘magically’ exposed participants to a reversal of their previously stated attitudes, allowing us to record whether they were prepared to endorse and argue for the opposite view of what they had stated only moments ago. The result showed that the majority of the reversals remained undetected, and a full 69% of the participants failed to detect at least one of two changes. In addition, participants often constructed coherent and unequivocal arguments supporting the opposite of their original position. These results suggest a dramatic potential for flexibility in our moral attitudes, and indicates a clear role for self-attribution and post-hoc rationalization in attitude formation and change.
Johansson, P., Hall, L., Tärning, B., Sikström, S., & Chater, N. (2013). Choice Blindness and Preference Change: You Will Like This Paper Better If You (Believe You) Chose to Read It! Journal of Behavioral Decision Making. DOI:10.1002/bdm.1807. [PDF]
Hall, L., Strandberg, T., Pärnamets, P., Lind, A., Tärning, B. and Johansson, P. (2013). How the Polls Can Be Both Spot On and Dead Wrong: Using Choice Blindness to Shift Political Attitudes and Voter Intentions. PLoS ONE 8(4): e60554. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0060554. [Link]
Hall, L., Johansson, P., & de Léon, D. (2013). Recomposing the Will: Distributed motivation and computer mediated extrospection. In T. Vierkant, A. Clark & J. Kiverstein (Eds.) (2013). Decomposing the will. Oxford University Press: Philosophy of Mind Series. pp. 298-324. [PDF]
Hall, L., Johansson, P., & Strandberg, T. (2012). Lifting the veil of morality: choice blindness and attitude reversals on a self-transforming survey. PloS one, 7(9), e45457. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0045457 [PDF]
Johansson, P., Hall, L., & Gärdenfors, P. (2011). Choice blindness and the nonunitary nature of the human mind. Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 34(1), 28- 29.
Hall, L., Johansson, P., Tärning, B., Sikström, S.,&Deutgen, T. (2010). Magic at the marketplace: Choice blindness for the taste of jam and the smell of tea. Cognition, 117(1), 54–61. doi:10.1016/j.cognition.2010.06.010 [PDF]
Johansson, L., Hall, L., & Chater, N. (2011). Preference change through choice. In R. Dolan & T. Sharot (Eds.) (2011). Neuroscience of Preference and Choice. Elsevier Academic Press. pp. 121-141. [PDF]
Johansson, Hall & Sikström 2008 - From Change Blindness to Choice Blindness. Psychologia, 51, 142-155.
Johansson, P., Hall, L., Sikström, S., & Olsson, A. (2005). Failure to detect mismatches between intention and outcome in a simple decision task. Science (New York, N.Y.), 310(5745), 116–9. doi:10.1126/science.1111709. [PDF]
Aardema, F., Johansson, P., Hall, L., Paradisis, S-M. & Roberts, S. (submitted). Choice blindness in Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder.
Find out more about our Lifting the Veil of Morality study in Nature News, LiveScience, and Science Daily.