, Volume 194, Issue 4, pp 1189–1218 | Cite as

Ordering effects, updating effects, and the specter of global skepticism

  • Zachary HorneEmail author
  • Jonathan Livengood


One widely-endorsed argument in the experimental philosophy literature maintains that intuitive judgments are unreliable because they are influenced by the order in which thought experiments prompting those judgments are presented. Here, we explicitly state this argument from ordering effects and show that any plausible understanding of the argument leads to an untenable conclusion. First, we show that the normative principle is ambiguous. On one reading of the principle, the empirical observation is well-supported, but the normative principle is false. On the other reading, the empirical observation has only weak support, and the normative principle, if correct, would impugn the reliability of deliberative reasoning, testimony, memory, and perception, since judgments in all these areas are sensitive to ordering in the relevant sense. We then reflect on what goes wrong with the argument.


Ordering effects Updating effects Skepticism  Thought experiments Experimental philosophy 



Thanks to Josh Alexander, Wes Buckwalter, Greg Gandenberger, Balazs Gyenis, John Hummel, Josh Knobe, Dan Korman, Conor Mayo-Wilson, Derek Powell, David Rose, Jonah Schupbach, Eric Schwitzgebel, John Turri, Jonathan Waskan, Dan Malinsky, Shaun Nichols, and two anonymous referees for comments on earlier drafts.


  1. Allan, L. (1977). The time-order error in judgments of duration. Canadian Journal of Psychology, 31, 24–31.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Anderson, N. (1971). Integration theory and attitude change. Psychological Review, 78, 171–206.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Anderson, J., Bothell, D., Lebiere, C., & Matessa, M. (1998). An Integrated Theory of List Memory. Journal of Memory and Language, 38(4), 341–380.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Ashton, A., & Ashton, R. (1988). Sequential belief revision in auditing. The Accounting Review, 63, 623–641.Google Scholar
  5. Bengson, J. (2013). Experimental Attacks on Intuitions and Answers. Philosophy and Phenomenological Research, 86(3), 495–532.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Cromwell, H. (1950). The relative effect on audience attitude of the first versus the second argumentative speech of a series. Speech Monographs, 17, 105–122.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Cullen, S. (2010). Survey-Driven Romanticism. Review of Philosophy and Psychology, 1(2), 275–296.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Davidson, D. (2001). “A Coherence Theory of Truth and Knowledge,” In Subjective and Intersubjective, Objective. Oxford: Clarendon Press.Google Scholar
  9. Dean, M. (1980). Presentation order effects in product taste tests. The Journal of Psychology, 105, 107–110.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Döring, F. (1999). Why Bayesian psychology is incomplete. Philosophy of Science, 379-389.Google Scholar
  11. Doumas, L. A., Hummel, J. E., & Sandhofer, C. M. (2008). A theory of the discovery and predication of relational concepts. Psychological Review, 115(1), 1–43.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Englund, M., & Hellström, Å. (2012). Presentation-order effects for aesthetic stimulus preference. Attention, Perception, & Psychophysics, 74, 1499–1511.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Eskine, K., Kacinik, N., & Prinz, J. (2011). A bad taste in the mouth: gustatory disgust influences moral judgment. Psychological Science, 22(3), 295–299.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Feigenbaum, E., & Simon, H. (1962). A theory of the serial position effect. British Journal of Psychology, 53(3), 307–320.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Feldman, R. (1988). Having Evidence. In D. Austin (Ed.), Philosophical Analysis. Dordrecht: Kluwer.Google Scholar
  16. Feltz, A., & Cokely, E. (2011). Individual differences in theory-of-mind judgments: Order effects and side effects. Philosophical Psychology, 24, 343–355.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Feltz, A., & Cokely, E. (2012). The Philosophical Personality Argument. Philosophical Studies, 161(2), 227–246.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Gentner, D., Rattermann, M. J., & Forbus, K. D. (1993). The roles of similarity in transfer: Separating retrievability from inferential soundness. Cognitive psychology, 25(4), 524–575.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Gettier, E. (1963). Is justified true belief knowledge? Analysis, 23(6), 121–123.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Gick, M., & Holyoak, K. (1983). Schema Induction and Analogical Transfer. Cognitive Psychology, 15(1), 1–38.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Girotto, V., Mazzocco, A., & Tasso, A. (1997). The effect of premise order in conditional reasoning: a test of the mental model theory. Cognition, 63, 1–28.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Greene, J., et al. (2001). An fMRI Investigation of Emotional Engagement in Moral Judgment. Science, 293(5537), 2105–2108.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Haidt, J., et al. (1993). Affect, Culture, and Morality, or Is It Wrong to Eat Your Dog? Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 65(4), 613–628.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Haarmann, H., & Usher, M. (2001). Maintenance of semantic information in capacity-limited item short-term memory. Psychonomic Bulletin & Review, 8, 568–578.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Hogarth, R., & Einhorn, H. (1992). Order Effects in Belief Updating: The Belief-Adjustment Model. Cognitive Psychology, 24(1), 1–55.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Holyoak, K., & Simon, D. (1999). Bidirectional Reasoning in decision making by constraint satisfaction. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, 128, 3–31.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Horne, Z., Powell, D., & Spino, J. (2013). Belief Updating in Moral Dilemmas. Review of Philosophy and Psychology, 4(4), 705–714.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Horne, Z., Powell, D., & Hummel, J. (2015). A single counterexample leads to stable moral belief updating. Cognitive Science.Google Scholar
  29. Howard, M., & Kahana, M. (1999). Contextual variability and serial position effects in free recall. Journal of experimental psychology Learning memory and cognition, 25(4), 923–941.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Hummel, J., & Holyoak, K. (2003). A Symbolic-Connectionist Theory of Relational Inference and Generalization. Psychological Review, 110(2), 220–264.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Jamieson, D., & Petrusic, W. (1975). Presentation order effects in duration discrimination. Perception & Psychophysics, 17, 197–202.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Lewis, D. (1996). Elusive Knowledge. Australasian Journal of Philosophy, 74, 549–567.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Liao, S. M., Wiegmann, A., Alexander, J., & Vong, G. (2012). Putting the trolley in order: Experimental philosophy and the loop case. Philosophical Psychology, 25(5), 661–671.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Machery, E., Mallon, R., Nichols, S., & Stich, S. P. (2004). Semantics, cross-cultural style. Cognition,92(3), B1–B12.Google Scholar
  35. Markman, A. (1997). Constraints on analogical inference. Cognitive Science, 21(4), 373–418.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. McDermott, M. (1995). Redundant causation. British Journal for the Philosophy of Science, 46(4), 523–544.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Murdock, B. (1962). The serial position effect of free recall. Journal of Experimental Psychology, 64(5), 482–488.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Nadelhoffer, T., & Feltz, A. (2008). The Actor-Observer Bias and Moral Intuitions. Neuroethics, 1(2), 133–144.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Neta, R. (2008). What Evidence Do You Have? British Journal for the Philosophy of Science, 59, 89–119.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Newell, A., & Simon, H. (1972). Human Problem Solving. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall.Google Scholar
  41. Nichols, S., & Knobe, J. (2007). Moral Responsibility and Determinism. Nous, 41(4), 663–685.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Oberauer, K., Hörnig, R., Weidenfeld, A., & Wilhelm, O. (2005). Effects of directionality in deductive reasoning: II. Premise integration and conclusion evaluation. The Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology, 58(7), 1225–1247.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Parducci, A. (1965). Category judgment: a range-frequency model. Psychological review, 72(6), 407–418.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Penn, D. C., Holyoak, K. J., & Povinelli, D. J. (2008). Darwin’s mistake: Explaining the discontinuity between human and nonhuman minds. Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 31(2), 109–130.Google Scholar
  45. Pennington, D. (1982). Witnesses and Their Testimony: Effects of Ordering on Jurors Verdicts. Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 4, 318–333.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Petrinovich, L., & O’Neill, P. (1996). Influence of wording and framing effects on moral intuitions. Ethology and Sociobiology, 17(3), 145–171.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Prinz, J. (2007). The Emotional Construction of Morals. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  48. Quine, W. (1969). “Epistemology Naturalized,” In Ontological Relativity & Other Essays. New York: Columbia University Press.Google Scholar
  49. Rachels, J. (1975). Active and Passive Euthanasia. New England Journal of Medicine, 292(2), 78–80.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Roediger, H., & Crowder, R. (1976). A serial position effect in recall of United States presidents. Bulletin of the Psychonomic Society, 8(4), 275–278.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Scarpi, D. (2004). Effects of Presentation Order on Product Evaluation: An Empirical Analysis. The International Review of Retail, Distribution and Consumer Research, 14, 309–319.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Schulz, E., Cokely, E. T., & Feltz, A. (2011). Persistent bias in expert judgments about free will and moral responsibility: A test of the expertise defense. Consciousness and Cognition, 20(4), 1722–1731.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Schwitzgebel, E., & Cushman, F. (2012). Expertise in Moral Reasoning? Mind & Language, 27(2), 135–153.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Schwitzgebel, E., & Cushman, F. (2015). Philosophers’ biased judgments persist despite training, expertise and reflection. Cognition, 141, 127–137.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Sinnott-Armstrong, W. (2008). Framing Moral Intuitions In Moral Psychology, Vol. 2: The cognitive science of morality: Intuition and diversity. Cambridge: MIT Press.Google Scholar
  56. Sosa, E. (2007). Experimental Philosophy and Philosophical Intuition. Philosophical Studies, 132(1), 99–107.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Stevens, S. S., & Galanter, E. H. (1957). Ratio scales and category scales for a dozen perceptual continua. Journal of Experimental Psychology, 54(6), 377–411.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. Swain, S., Alexander, J., & Weinberg, J. M. (2008). The instability of philosophical intuitions: Running hot and cold on truetemp. Philosophy and Phenomenological Research, 76(1), 138–155.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. Sytsma, J. et al. (2015). Gödel in the Land of the Rising Sun. Review of Philosophy and Psychology, 6(2), 213–230.Google Scholar
  60. Tobia, K., Buckwalter, W., & Stich, S. (2012). Moral intuitions: Are philosophers experts? Philosophical Psychology, 1-10.Google Scholar
  61. Walker, L., Thibaut, J., & Andreoli, V. (1972). Order of presentation at trial. Yale Law Journal, 82, 216–226.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  62. Weiss, D., & Anderson, N. (1969). Subjective averaging of length with serial presentation. Journal of Experimental Psychology, 82, 52–63.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  63. Wiegmann, A., & Okan, J. (2012). Order effects in moral judgments. Searching for an explanation. In Miyake, N., Peebles, D., & Cooper, R.P. (Eds.), Proceedings of the \(34^{th}\) Annual Conference of the Cognitive Science Society (pp. 1143-1148). Austin, TX. Cognitive Science Society.Google Scholar
  64. Wiegmann, A., Okan, J., & Nagel, J. (2012). Order effects in moral judgment. Philosophical Psychology, 1-24.Google Scholar
  65. Wiegmann, A., & Waldmann, M. R. (2014). Transfer effects between moral dilemmas: A causal model theory. Cognition, 131(1), 28–43.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  66. Williamson, T. (2000). Knowledge and its Limits. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  67. Williamson, T. (2004). Philosphical ‘Intuitions’ and Scepticism about Judgement. dialectica, 58(1), 109–153.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  68. Williamson, T. (2008). The philosophy of philosophy. Oxford: John Wiley & Sons.Google Scholar
  69. Williamson, T. (forthcoming). “Philosophical Criticisms of Experimental Philosophy,” In Sytsma and Buck-walter.Google Scholar
  70. Wright, J. C. (2010). On intuitional stability: The clear, the strong, and the paradigmatic. Cognition, 115(3), 491–503.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of Illinois, Urbana-ChampaignChampaignUSA
  2. 2.Department of PhilosophyUniversity of Illinois, Urbana-ChampaignUrbanaUSA

Personalised recommendations