Sunday, December 15, 2019

Perception of the bodily cues, interoceptive sensibility (but not interoceptive accuracy), has a significant positive impact on subjective well‐being; a clear exception is gastric sensitivity

Do body‐related sensations make feel us better? Subjective well‐being is associated only with the subjective aspect of interoception. Eszter Ferentzi  Áron Horváth  Ferenc Köteles. Psychophysiology, 2019;e13319, January 10 2019. https://doi.org/10.1111/psyp.13319

Abstract: According to the proposition of several theoretical accounts, the perception of the bodily cues, interoceptive accuracy and interoceptive sensibility, has a significant positive impact on subjective well‐being. Others assume a negative association; however, empirical evidence is scarce. In this study, 142 young adults completed questionnaires assessing subjective well‐being, interoceptive sensibility, and subjective somatic symptoms and participated in measurements of proprioceptive accuracy (reproduction of the angle of the elbow joint), gastric sensitivity (water load test), and heartbeat tracking ability (Schandry task). Subjective well‐being showed weak to medium positive associations with interoceptive sensibility and weak negative associations with symptom reports. No associations with measures of interoceptive accuracy were found. Gastric sensitivity as opposed to heartbeat perception and proprioceptive accuracy moderated the association between interoceptive sensibility and well‐being. Thus, subjective well‐being is associated only with the self‐reported (perceived) aspect of interoception but not related to the sensory measures of interoceptive accuracy.


IAc =interoceptive accuracy

4 | DISCUSSION

In a cross‐sectional study with the participation of young healthy adults, subjective well‐being showed weak‐ to medium‐level associations with interoceptive sensibility even after controlling for gender and negative body‐related sensations (i.e., perceived symptoms). However, no associations with interoceptive accuracy (as assessed by heartbeat tracking ability, gastric sensitivity, and the proprioceptive error with respect to the elbow joint) were found. Moreover, an interaction between interoceptive sensibility and gastric sensitivity was revealed.

The positive association between subjective well‐being and interoceptive sensibility (i.e., the subjective or perceived aspect of interoception) replicates the findings of previous studies (Hanley et al., 2017; Tihanyi, Böőr, et al., 2016; Tihanyi, Sági, Csala, Tolnai, & Köteles, 2016). One explanation is that better psychological functioning and lower levels of perceived stress enable healthy individuals to allocate more attentional resources to various stimuli, including information originating in the body (Köteles et al., 2013). The finding that body‐mind interventions have a positive impact on interoceptive sensibility (Bornemann, Herbert, Mehling, & Singer, 2015; Fissler et al., 2016; Mehling et al., 2013; Rani & Rao, 1994) also supports this idea. It is also possible, however, that a more positive cognitive‐emotional condition simply biases self‐reports in a positive direction (Ferentzi, Drew, et al., 2018). Finally, in accordance with the tenets of body‐mind theorists, paying more attention to the body (i.e., gut feelings, emotions) may also lead to better functioning and improved well‐being (Bakal, 1999; Daubenmier, 2005; Farb et al., 2015; Mehling et al., 2009, 2011). This association might be behaviorally mediated; for example, more focus on body sensations might enable the individual to recognize symptoms of diseases and seek medical help earlier or change potentially risky behaviors in their early phase (Bakal, 1999; Fogel, 2013). However, interoception is a special perceptual process where raw sensory input plays a less salient role in shaping the conscious content than in the case of exteroception (Ádám, 1998). In other words, nonpathological interoceptive sensory information is usually ambiguous, thus its perception of being heavily influenced by top‐down factors such as expectations, previous experiences, environmental cues (Brown, 2004; Friston, 2005; Friston, Kilner, & Harrison, 2006; Pennebaker, 1982). In conclusion, the aforementioned top‐down factors will play a substantial role in the behaviors improving mental and physical health. The strength of the association (interoceptive sensibility explained approximately only 6%–8% of the variance of well‐being) appears realistic; as both constructs are influenced by a number of various factors, a substantially stronger association would be spurious.

Body‐focused attention does not necessarily improve the accuracy of detection of body signals (Ceunen et al., 2013; Silvia & Gendolla, 2001); in other words, there is a considerable dissociation between perceived and actual body‐related events (Ainley & Tsakiris, 2013; Ferentzi et al., 2017; Pennebaker, 1982). For example, subjective somatic symptoms were not related to either indicator of IAc in the current study, which basically reflects the often‐reported independence of symptom reports and body events (van den Bergh, Witthöft, Petersen, & Brown, 2017). Similarly, power posing (i.e., voluntarily adopting powerful postures to improve performance) evoked self‐reported changes in mood but did not influence hormone levels and behavior in risky situations (Ranehill et al., 2015). Although interoceptive sensibility was weakly associated with the cardiac indicators of IAc in our study, IAc did not contribute to subjective well‐ being after controlling for gender, BMI, and resting HR in the regression analysis, and no interaction between interoceptive sensibility and cardioception was revealed. Taking into consideration that the regression analyses were also controlled for somatic symptoms (i.e., sensations from the body that are negative by definition), it can be concluded that the accuracy of detection of interoceptive changes does not have a direct positive or negative impact on well‐being.

The only interaction we found (i.e., gastric sensitivity moderates the association between interoceptive sensibility and well‐being) only partially supports the adaptivity hypothesis, as the contribution of interoceptive sensibility to well‐being is positive only for low and medium levels of gastric sensitivity. According to our result, the interaction between gastric sensitivity and interoceptive sensibility contributes to a higher level of well‐being in the two following cases: firstly, if low to medium gastric sensitivity is accompanied by high interoceptive sensibility, and, secondly, if high gastric sensitivity is accompanied by low interoceptive sensibility. We can only speculate about the interpretation of this result as well as why it was found for gastric sensitivity only. First of all, gastric fullness above a certain level is an unpleasant feeling, which leads to terminating the ongoing food and drink intake. This feeling occurs on a regular basis for everyone, whereas heart‐related and conscious proprioceptive experiences are less frequent under everyday circumstances. Concerning the interpretation of the interaction, high gastric sensitivity can turn the positive association between well‐being and interoceptive sensibility into negative because increased body focus might amplify the unpleasantness of the feeling of distension. This is in accordance with the view that bottom‐up and top‐down processes occur and interact with each other at almost every level of the interoceptive sensory system (Smith & Lane, 2015). Thus, making bodily sensations more conscious might not be beneficial in all cases; it is also an open question, however, whether our finding represents clinical relevance. We would also like to emphasize that this interpretation is speculation only, and the result needs to be confirmed by the replication of the study.

One of the limitations of the current study is that its conclusions are valid for healthy individuals only; atypical interoception may lead to issues in psychological development and represent a general susceptibility to psychopathology (Murphy, Brewer, Catmur, & Bird, 2017). Extremely low and high levels of interoceptive accuracy with respect to one single modality might also have modality‐specific pathological consequences. However, interoceptive accuracy is not a unitary construct (i.e., various interoceptive modalities are independent of each other with respect to IAc; Ferentzi, Bogdány, et al., 2018). This also implies that differences in the accuracy of detection of various bodily cues and modalities within the normal domain can even compete with each other, providing a complex body sensation (Smith & Lane, 2015). Thus, sensitivity with respect to a single channel does not necessarily influence everyday psychological functioning. Interoceptive sensibility, on the other hand, represents a more unitary (i.e., integrated) construct, therefore it may impact self‐reported characteristics such as well‐being.

Issues related to the sensory measurements of interoception have to be mentioned among the limitations of the current study. As IAc is not generalizable across modalities, the current study assessed three interoceptive channels. However, other modalities might be more relevant concerning subjective mental well‐being, such as breathing, the change of heart rate (rather than its actual state), sweating, or the sensation of body temperature change. The context and the interpretation of the bodily cues were also not investigated here, although both might influence self‐rated well‐being. Moreover, the Schandry task has received several criticisms recently and is not considered a reliable indicator of cardioceptive accuracy by some authors (Brener & Ring, 2016; Ring & Brener, 2018). Finally, participants were not screened for mental disorders and chronic conditions that might impact their performance. These issues and the characteristics of the sample (young adult with a relatively high subjective well‐being score) limit the external validity of the findings. In summary, subjective well‐being of healthy young adults is associated with the subjective (perceived) aspect of interoception but not related to interoceptive accuracy. Thus, the level of well‐being depends more on our subjective bodily report than on the actual accuracy of our bodily sensations.

The climate crisis is not just about the environment, but about human rights, justice, & political will; colonial, racist, & patriarchal systems of oppression have created & fueled it; they must be dismantled

Why We Strike Again. Greta Thunberg, Luisa Neubauer, Angela Valenzuela. Project Syndicate, Nov 29, 2019. https://www.project-syndicate.org/commentary/climate-strikes-un-conference-madrid-by-greta-thunberg-et-al-2019-11

Excerpts:

After a year of strikes, our voices are being heard. We are being invited to speak in the corridors of power.

With public opinion shifting, world leaders, too, say that they have heard us. They say that they agree with our demand for urgent action to tackle the climate crisis. But they do nothing. As they head to Madrid for the 25th session of the Conference of the Parties (COP25) to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, we call out this hypocrisy.

That action must be powerful and wide-ranging. After all, the climate crisis is not just about the environment. It is a crisis of human rights, of justice, and of political will. Colonial, racist, and patriarchal systems of oppression have created and fueled it. We need to dismantle them all. Our political leaders can no longer shirk their responsibilities.


Check also: Greta Thunberg's character, as the press summarized her speech at the UN Climate Summit, Sep 23, 2019 https://www.bipartisanalliance.com/2019/09/greta-thunberg-as-press-summarized-her.html

Disentangling physics from the norms of patriarchal white supremacy must begin with an honest accounting of the roots of the Western scientific project in the project of slavery

Making Black Women Scientists under White Empiricism: The Racialization of Epistemology in Physics. Chanda Prescod-Weinstein. Signs, 2020, vol. 45, no. 2. https://www.journals.uchicago.edu/doi/pdfplus/10.1086/704991


[...] White empiricism is the phenomenon through which only white people (particularly white men) are read has having a fundamental capacity for objectivity and Black people (particularly Black women) are produced as an ontological other. This phenomenon is stabilized through the production and retention of what Joseph Martin calls prestige asymmetry, which explains how social resources in physics are distributed based on prestige. In American society, Black women are on the losing end of an ontic prestige asymmetry whereby different scientists “garner unequal public approbation” in their everyday lives due to ascribed identities such as gender and race (Martin 2017, 475). White empiricism is one of the mechanisms by which this asymmetry follows Black women physicists into their professional lives. Because white empiricism contravenes core tenets of modern physics (e.g., covariance and relativity), it negatively impacts scientific outcomes and harms the people who are othered. [...]


Excerpts of section "Prestige asymmetry and the manufacture of white empiricism"

A scientist using white empiricism as an analytic framework might assume that there is no dynamic relationship between the underrepresentation of Black women and knowledge production in physics, choosing to ignore evidence that the culture of physics limits participation via racist and sexist gatekeeping. Yet Helen Longino (1990) has persuasively argued that, even in the physical sciences, science is social knowledge. Janice Moulton’s “The Adversary Method” (1983) represents one analysis that shows how culture and knowledge production can come into conflict with concrete epistemic implications. Moulton succinctly notes in a section title that in philosophy there is an “unhappy conflation of aggression with success,” and Traweek observes the same among American high energy physicists (Moulton 1983, 149; Traweek 1992, 130). Making aggressive behavior a requirement for academic success is especially harmful to Black women, since Black women are demonized for engaging in behaviors that even hint at aggression (HarrisPerry 2011, 89).

Disentangling physics from the norms of patriarchal white supremacy must begin with an honest accounting of the roots of the Western scientific project in the project of slavery. Slavery is rarely the starting point for discussions of what many of us would call the post–Enlightenment era development of science, which Jonathan Marks helpfully defines as “the production of convincing knowledge in modern society” (2009, 2), but in order to understand the epistemic dismissal of Black women, we must begin with slavery. Science, mathematics, and slavery were intimately connected: whether it was the early evolution of insurance and actuarial science to calculate the value of jettisoned cargo—brutally murdered people—or efforts to minimize the bow wave—the wake—of ships, to make them faster, to speed the movement of kidnapped Africans from the torturous Middle Passage to a tortured lifetime and usually death in the bondage of chattel slavery (Sharpe 2016, 35). Even a century and a half after the end of slavery and with Black intellectuals making inroads in white-dominant academia, they continue to face epistemic injustice, epistemic marginalization, presumed incompetence, and the cognitive dissonance of consciously recognizing the white supremacy that pervades the scientific culture of “no culture” (Traweek 1992, 162).

From 2018... Those in the low opposite-sex exposure condition rated subsequent individual voices of the opposite sex as significantly more attractive than those who were in the high opposite-sex exposure condition

Hearing Sex at the Cocktail Party: Biased Sex Ratios Influence Vocal Attractiveness. John. G. Neuhoff ORCID Icon &Taylor N. Sikich. Auditory Perception & Cognition, Volume 1, 2018 - Issue 1-2, Sep 25 2018. https://doi.org/10.1080/25742442.2018.1518949

ABSTRACT: Visual exposure to unbalanced sex ratios influences perceived facial attractiveness for opposite-sex faces. When opposite-sex faces are scarce they are rated as more attractive than when they are plentiful. The current work examines a vocal-auditory analog of this effect. Participants were assigned to either a high or low opposite-sex vocal exposure condition and reported summary statistics by estimating the percentage of male and female voices in an array of simultaneous talkers. Participants then rated the attractiveness of individual opposite-sex voices. Those in the low opposite-sex exposure condition rated subsequent individual voices of the opposite sex as significantly more attractive than those who were in the high opposite-sex exposure condition. The findings demonstrate that a core visuo-perceptual aspect of mate selection preference also occurs in the auditory domain. The results are consistent with the idea that the attractiveness of opposite-sex partners is an honest signal of fitness and involves multimodal processes that are quickly modulated by the perceived availability of opposite-sex partners in a local environment.

KEYWORDS: Sex ratio, ensemble coding, summary statistics, vocal attractiveness, mate selection

Discussion

Simultaneously sounding voices have historically been treated as “background” stimuli in auditory perception research (Brungart & Simpson, 2007; Brungart, Simpson, Ericson, & Scott, 2001; Cox, Alexander, & Rivera, 1991; Darwin, 2008). However, the current results confirm that when directed to attend to multiple simultaneous voices, listeners can use ensemble coding to extract summary statistics and scale the percentage of male and female voices in the array (Neuhoff, 2017). Moreover, when listeners hear a low percentage of opposite-sex voices, subsequent individual opposite sex voices are perceived as more attractive than when they hear a high percentage of opposite-sex voices.

Sex Ratios and Vocal Attractiveness
The effect of unbalanced sex ratios on perceived attractiveness is consistent with previous work that examines the relationship between sex ratios and mate selection behavior. Favorable sex ratios (a larger choice of potential opposite-sex mates and fewer same-sex rivals) are associated with choosier mate selection behaviors and raised standards of attractiveness in a potential mate (Hahn et al., 2014; Munro et al., 2014; Watkins et al., 2012). From a theoretical perspective, modulating mate selection preferences and behaviors based on the perception of unbalanced sex ratios makes evolutionary sense. Sociosexual behaviors in populations with biased sex ratios skew toward the preferences of the minority sex, which can be more selective because they face less competition from same-sex rivals (Moss & Maner, 2016; Pedersen, 1991; Pollet & Nettle, 2008; Schmitt, 2005). Lowering attractiveness standards in the face of unfavorable sex ratios is a behavior that expands the pool of potential mates (Watkins et al., 2012). The current findings for unbalanced vocal sex ratios are consistent with research on sex ratios and facial attractiveness and provide converging support for a reliable relationship between vocal and visual attractiveness (Abend et al. 2015; Puts et al., 2016).

This suggests that observers use multimodal sources of information when evaluating potential opposite-sex partners and that the process may involve a high degree of automaticity. For example, Mileva, Tompkinson, Watt, and Burton (2018) showed that impression formation involves a mandatory and immediate integration of both vocal and facial information. Future work might examine the degree to which the perception of summary statistics from voices and the effects of unbalanced sex ratios on attractiveness involve automatic processes. In the current work, listeners accurately scaled sex ratios after exposures of only 1500 ms and showed effects of unbalanced sex ratios on perceived attractiveness after cumulative exposure of only 1.2 min (48 trials × 1500 ms). We also found a main effect for the number of voices presented in the exposure phase. Listeners presented with 5 simultaneous voices perceived subsequent individual voices to be more attractive than those first presented with 10 simultaneous voices. Although we did not specifically ask our participants to report the number of voices in the exposure stimuli, the results are consistent with the overarching hypothesis that standards of attractiveness will be lowered (i.e., voices will be rated as more attractive) when the number of potential opposite-sex partners is diminished.

Finally, we found a main effect for participant sex that indicated men found female voices more attractive than women found male voices. This finding could simply be a function of the relative attractiveness between male and female voices in our study.

Ericson, & Scott, 2001; Cox, Alexander, & Rivera, 1991; Darwin, 2008). However, the current results confirm that when directed to attend to multiple simultaneous voices, listeners can use ensemble coding to extract summary statistics and scale the percentage of male and female voices in the array (Neuhoff, 2017). Moreover, when listeners hear a low percentage of opposite-sex voices, subsequent individual opposite sex voices are perceived as more attractive than when they hear a high percentage of opposite-sex voices. Sex Ratios and Vocal Attractiveness The effect of unbalanced sex ratios on perceived attractiveness is consistent with previous work that examines the relationship between sex ratios and mate selection behavior. Favorable sex ratios (a larger choice of potential opposite-sex mates and fewer same-sex rivals) are associated with choosier mate selection behaviors and raised standards of attractiveness in a potential mate (Hahn et al., 2014; Munro et al., 2014; Watkins et al., 2012). From a theoretical perspective, modulating mate selection preferences and behaviors based on the perception of unbalanced sex ratios makes evolutionary sense. Sociosexual behaviors in populations with biased sex ratios skew toward the preferences of the minority sex, which can be more selective because they face less competition from same-sex rivals (Moss & Maner, 2016; Pedersen, 1991; Pollet & Nettle, 2008; Schmitt, 2005). Lowering attractiveness standards in the face of unfavorable sex ratios is a behavior that expands the pool of potential mates (Watkins et al., 2012).

The current findings for unbalanced vocal sex ratios are consistent with research on sex ratios and facial attractiveness and provide converging support for a reliable relationship between vocal and visual attractiveness (Abend et al. 2015; Puts et al., 2016). This suggests that observers use multimodal sources of information when evaluating potential opposite-sex partners and that the process may involve a high degree of automaticity. For example, Mileva, Tompkinson, Watt, and Burton (2018) showed that impression formation involves a mandatory and immediate integration of both vocal and facial information. Future work might examine the degree to which the perception of summary statistics from voices and the effects of unbalanced sex ratios on attractiveness involve automatic processes. In the current work, listeners accurately scaled sex ratios after exposures of only 1500 ms and showed effects of unbalanced sex ratios on perceived attractiveness after cumulative exposure of only 1.2 min (48 trials × 1500 ms). We also found a main effect for the number of voices presented in the exposure phase. Listeners presented with 5 simultaneous voices perceived subsequent individual voices to be more attractive than those first presented with 10 simultaneous voices. Although we did not specifically ask our participants to report the number of voices in the exposure stimuli, the results are consistent with the overarching hypothesis that standards of attractiveness will be lowered (i.e., voices will be rated as more attractive) when the number of potential opposite-sex partners is diminished.

Finally, we found a main effect for participant sex that indicated men found female voices more attractive than women found male voices. This finding could simply be a function of the relative attractiveness between male and female voices in our study. However, it is also a finding that occurs consistently when men and women are asked to give opposite-sex attractiveness ratings (Gladue & Delaney, 1990; Hahn et al., 2014; Johnco et al., 2010) and is consistent with a higher priority in men than in women for physical attractiveness as an important criterion for mate selection (Boxer et al., 2015; Buss, 1989; Buss & Barnes, 1986).

Effect Sizes
We found very large effects sizes between conditions when listeners were asked to judge the percentage of males and females in our multiple voice exposure stimuli. The effect size for the linear trend for perceived sex ratio as a function of actual sex ratio was ηp 2 = .42 (equivalent to Cohen’s d = 1.7). Neuhoff (2017) also found large effect sizes when participants were asked to scale vocal sex ratios that ranged from 0% to 100%. The size of the effect speaks to the robust ability of listeners to scale sex ratios of multiple simultaneous voices.

However, even effect sizes this large likely underestimate the true effect size that might occur in more natural environments. Under natural listening conditions, multiple simultaneous talkers emanate from separate locations in space (rather than centrally from headphones or loudspeakers). Spatial separation of talkers reduces auditory cognitive load and affords a better assessment of target speech among multiple talkers (Andeol, Suied, Scannella, & Dehais, 2017; Bronkhorst, 2000; Shinn-Cunningham, Ihlefeld, Satyavarta, & Larson, 2005). Thus, spatial separation might also afford more accurate estimates of sex ratios. In a similar light, it may also be the case that durations of exposure to multiple voices longer than 1500 ms would provide a better assessment of vocal sex ratios.

In contrast to the large effect sizes for scaling sex ratios, the effect size for the difference in attractiveness ratings between high and low opposite sex exposure conditions was comparatively small (ηp 2 = .02, equivalent to Cohen’s d = .29). Our design had sufficient power to detect this effect size, and it may be that the factors of increased spatial separation and stimulus duration that would occur in a natural environment would also increase the effects of unbalanced sex ratios on attractiveness. The fact that exposure and attractiveness ratings occurred in temporally separate blocks may also contribute to the smaller observed effect size.

However, effect sizes need not be large to be important from an evolutionary perspective. On the contrary, small but reliable effect sizes can be instrumental in explaining how our evolutionary history shaped current perceptual and cognitive abilities (Voyer, Voyer, & Bryden, 1995; Weiss, Kemmler, Deisenhammer, Fleischhacker, & Delazer, 2003; Zilles et al., 2016). For example, in evolutionary psychology, finding sex differences can be critically important evidence that supports a behavioral adaptation. Yet, a meta-analysis of 286 studies on sex differences in spatial perception showed a mean effect size of only d = .37 (ηp 2 = .03; Voyer et al., 1995). Although such small effect sizes are not helpful in predicting the behavior of any particular individual based on sex, they are indicative of differential challenges faced by men and women over the course of evolutionary history. The effect size in our results is also similar to that found for the effect of biased sex ratios on facial attractiveness (ηp 2 = .02, Hahn et al., 2014).

Limitations and Future Research
Our sample included only heterosexual participants. Thus, it is an open question as to how exposure to unbalanced sex ratios might influence participants of other sexual orientations or how participant sexual orientation might interact with the orientation of the to-be-judged talker. Although our results do not speak to these questions, there is considerable evidence to suggest that sexual orientation is likely an important factor in these kinds of investigations and could be a fruitful avenue for further research (Hancock & Pool, 2017; Munson, 2007; Rule, 2017; Valentova, Roberts, & Havlicek, 2013).

The online nature of our data collection introduced variability that might not have been present under more controlled laboratory conditions. For example, participants listened to the stimuli as compressed mp3 files on their own devices at different levels with varying amounts of background noise in each unique listening environment. Nonetheless, all these factors introduce variability that makes it less likely to reject the null hypothesis. Finding significant results in the face of this increased variability speaks to the robust nature of the effects and increases the external validity of the findings.

Online data collection also resulted in a more diverse sample than what we would expect to obtain in typical undergraduate samples. While this is a desirable characteristic of samples, the mean age of our participants (39 years) was considerably older than that of the talkers whose voices were rated for attractiveness (20 years). Although this poses no threat to internal validity (all participants rated voices of the same age), it would be interesting to examine how participant and talker age interact in future studies of sex ratios and attractiveness.

Overconfident people should be surprised that they are so often wrong. Are they?

Overprecision Increases Subsequent Surprise. Derek Schatz, Don A. Moore. bioRxiv, December 13, 2019. https://doi.org/10.1101/2019.12.13.875203

Abstract: Overconfident people should be surprised that they are so often wrong. Are they? Three studies examined the relationship between confidence and surprise in order to shed light on the psychology of overprecision in judgment. Participants reported ex-ante confidence in their beliefs, and after receiving accuracy feedback, they then reported ex-post surprise. Results show that more ex-ante confidence produces less ex-post surprise for correct answers; this relationship reverses for incorrect answers. However, this sensible pattern only holds for some measures of confidence; it fails for confidence-interval measures. The results can help explain the robust durability of overprecision in judgment.

GENERAL DISCUSSION
Our results show that ex-ante confidence and ex-post surprise are inextricably linked. Our primary finding is that when people are correct, greater ex-ante confidence produces less ex-post surprise, whereas when they are incorrect, greater ex-ante confidence produces more ex-post surprise. We examine the psychology underlying these relationships and identify moderators that can either suppress or enhance their strength. Studies 1 and 2 establish the link between confidence and surprise, highlighting that correctness is a powerful moderator of the relationship. Studies 2 and 3 employ exogenous manipulations of confidence; their results replicate the correlational results of Study 1. Study 2 finds more powerful confidence-correctness interaction effects on surprise for epistemic questions than for aleatory, consistent with the notion that feeling personally accountable for knowing or not knowing the answer increases the intensity of emotional reactions to being right or wrong. Study 3 finds that people are more surprised about being wrong than they expect to be. 

What of the utility of surprise? If surprise reflects prediction error, individuals should seek to maximize accuracy and minimize surprise (Ely, Frankel, & Kamenica, 2015). This implies that surprise should lead people to reduce their subsequent confidence. Our results suggest that surprise does not always play this functional role, or that it is difficult to measure consistently. Future research should examine the conditions under which surprise has a corrective effect on subsequent confidence. How quickly does this effect decay and what possible moderators could increase the calibrating power and longevity of feedback on subsequent confidence? Could incorrect answers in epistemic domains more central to one’s self-concept ‘stick’ for a longer period of time, forcing one’s re-evaluation of their believed expertise? Or could the opposite be the case, where the incorrect answer is considered anomalous and the sense of expertise persists?

We aspired to measure the effects of overprecision on surprise. In recording participants’ ex-ante confidence, their correctness, and their ex-post surprise, we document consistent evidence suggesting that people expect to be correct. If they go into a decision with confidence, they are more surprised to be incorrect, and less surprised when correct. We believe these results do more than underscore precision in judgment. Rather, this research approaches the topic with a new paradigm that serves to reveal another layer in the scientific understanding of the psychology of confidence and precision in judgment.