Category effects on stimulus estimation: Shifting and skewed frequency distributions—A reexamination

Theoretical Review


Duffy, Huttenlocher, Hedges, and Crawford (Psychonomic Bulletin & Review, 17(2), 224–230, 2010) report on experiments where participants estimate the lengths of lines. These studies were designed to test the category adjustment model (CAM), a Bayesian model of judgments. The authors report that their analysis provides evidence consistent with CAM: that there is a bias toward the running mean and not recent stimuli. We reexamine their data. First, we attempt to replicate their analysis, and we obtain different results. Second, we conduct a different statistical analysis. We find significant recency effects, and we identify several specifications where the running mean is not significantly related to judgment. Third, we conduct tests of auxiliary predictions of CAM. We do not find evidence that the bias toward the mean increases with exposure to the distribution. We also do not find that responses longer than the maximum of the distribution or shorter than the minimum become less likely with greater exposure to the distribution. Fourth, we produce a simulated dataset that is consistent with key features of CAM, and our methods correctly identify it as consistent with CAM. We conclude that the Duffy et al. (2010) dataset is not consistent with CAM. We also discuss how conventions in psychology do not sufficiently reduce the likelihood of these mistakes in future research. We hope that the methods that we employ will be used to evaluate other datasets.


Judgment Memory Category adjustment model Central tendency bias Recency effects Bayesian judgments 



We thank Roberto Barbera, I-Ming Chiu, L. Elizabeth Crawford, Johanna Hertel, Rosemarie Nagel, and Adam Sanjurjo for helpful comments. This project was supported by Rutgers University Research Council Grant #202297. John Smith thanks Biblioteca de Catalunya.

Supplementary material

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Copyright information

© Psychonomic Society, Inc. 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PsychologyRutgers University-CamdenCamdenUSA
  2. 2.Department of EconomicsRutgers University-CamdenCamdenUSA

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