Publications

Atir S. & Ferguson, M. J. (in press). How Gender Determines the Way We Speak About Professionals. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, USA.

Abstract forthcoming.

Swallow, K. M., & Atir, S. (in press). The Role of Value in the Attentional Boost Effect. Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology.

Focusing attention on one item typically interferes with the ability to process other information. Yet, target detection can both facilitate memory for items paired with the target (the attentional boost effect) and increase the perceived value of those items (cued approach). Because long-term memory is better for valuable items than for neutral items, we asked whether the attentional boost effect is due to changes in the perceived value of items that are paired with targets. In three experiments participants memorised a series of briefly presented images that depicted valuable (e.g., food) or neutral (e.g., toys) items. Whenever an item appeared, a square flashed in its center. Participants pressed a button if the square was a target color but not if it was a distractor color. Consistent with previous research, target-paired items were remembered better than distractor-paired items and were rated as more valuable. Importantly, if memory for target-paired items is enhanced because they increased in perceived value, then valuable items should have been better remembered than neutral items. However, we found no evidence that value enhanced memory for the items in this task. Thus, it is unlikely that the attentional boost effect is due to changes in perceived value.

Atir S., Rosenzweig, E., & Dunning D. A. (2015). When Knowledge Knows No Bounds: Self-Perceived Expertise Predicts Claiming of Impossible Knowledge. Psychological Science, 26, 1295-1303.

People overestimate their own knowledge, erring at times by claiming knowledge of concepts, events, and people that do not exist and cannot be known, a phenomenon called overclaiming. Why and when do people claim such impossible knowledge? We proposed that people overclaim to the extent they perceive their expertise as high rather than low. Supporting this hypothesis, in Study 1, self-perceived knowledge in personal finance positively predicted claiming knowledge of nonexistent financial concepts. Study 2 demonstrated that self-perceived knowledge within specific domains (e.g., biology) was associated specifically with overclaiming within those domains. In Study 3, warning participants that some concepts did not exist did not reduce the relationship between self-perceived knowledge and overclaiming, suggesting that the relationship is not driven by self-presentational concerns. Finally, in Study 4, boosting self-perceived expertise in geography prompted assertions of familiarity with nonexistent places, supporting a causal role for self-perceived expertise in claiming impossible knowledge.

In Prep

Atir S., Rosenzweig, E., & Dunning D. A. (in preparation). The Role of Perceived Versus Genuine Expertise in Claiming Knowledge One Cannot Possibly Have

When do we confuse what we do and don’t know? Recent work suggests that self-perceived knowledge leads people to overclaim, i.e., to mistakenly assert knowledge of nonexistent terms that were invented for the study (Atir, Rosenzweig, & Dunning, 2015). However, self-perceived knowledge can diverge sharply from genuine knowledge. Does genuine expertise make it easier or harder to assess one’s knowledge? One prediction is that genuinely knowledgeable people will be more prone to overclaiming because they have more true information on which to draw in trying to construct meaning for nonexistent terms. Alternatively, genuine knowledge may aid in the instinctive detection of ignorance. In 6 studies, we find support for the latter. Holding constant self-perceived knowledge, participants who knew more about personal finance and science were less likely to overclaim knowledge of invented terms within those domains (Studies 1a-b). Students’ course grades negatively predicted overclaiming knowledge of invented course terms (Study 2). Doctors and medical students overclaimed less medical knowledge than did undergraduate premeds (Study 3).  The effect is not explained by experts experiencing a sharper contrast between real items and foils (Study 4), or by the generation of fewer associations with the foils (Study 5). Finally, a difference in thinking processes partly mediates the impact of genuine expertise on overclaiming: those with greater expertise experience a more automatic (vs. deliberative) thinking process when judging their knowledge of specific concepts, which in turn predicts better differentiation between real and false knowledge (Study 6).

Rosenzweig, E, Atir S., & Dunning D. A. (in preparation). The Influence of Context on Overclaiming: When and Why Do People Claim to Know The Unknowable?

True knowledge requires not only identifying what one knows but also what one does not. Yet research has demonstrated that people often fail at this latter task, claiming knowledge of people, places, and concepts they cannot possibly know because those things do not exist, a phenomenon called overclaiming. Although overclaiming has heretofore been studied as an individual difference variable, we provide evidence that overclaiming is contextually dependent. Specifically, we present four studies designed to answer whether surrounding bogus concepts with familiar ones, relative to those more unfamiliar, prompts more overclaiming (assimilation) or less (contrast). We find evidence for a robust assimilation effect, such that people claim more knowledge of nonexistent concepts in a familiar than an unfamiliar context, and shed light on one inferential process that underlies it. We close by discussing how our work both connects to research on memory, self-knowledge, and attitudes, while opening new avenues for exploration in these areas.