Psychonomic Bulletin & Review

, Volume 16, Issue 1, pp 204–213

The disutility of the hard-easy effect in choice confidence

Notes and Comment

DOI: 10.3758/PBR.16.1.204

Cite this article as:
Merkle, E.C. Psychonomic Bulletin & Review (2009) 16: 204. doi:10.3758/PBR.16.1.204


A common finding in confidence research is the hard-easy effect, in which judges exhibit greater overconfidence for more difficult sets of questions. Many explanations have been advanced for the hard-easy effect, including systematic cognitive mechanisms, experimenter bias, random error, and statistical artifact. In this article, I mathematically derive necessary and sufficient conditions for observing a hard-easy effect, and I relate these conditions to previous explanations for the effect. I conclude that all types of judges exhibit the hard-easy effect in almost all realistic situations. Thus, the effect’s presence cannot be used to distinguish between judges or to draw support for specific models of confidence elicitation.

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© Psychonomic Society, Inc. 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PsychologyWichita State UniversityWichita