Considering the opposite: a corrective strategy for social judgment.

Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 47(6):1231 (1984) PMID 6527215

It is proposed that several biases in social judgment result from a failure--first noted by Francis Bacon--to consider possibilities at odds with beliefs and perceptions of the moment. Individuals who are induced to consider the opposite, therefore, should display less bias in social judgment. In two separate but conceptually parallel experiments, this reasoning was applied to two domains--biased assimilation of new evidence on social issues and biased hypothesis testing of personality impressions. Subjects were induced to consider the opposite in two ways: through explicit instructions to do so and through stimulus materials that made opposite possibilities more salient. In both experiments the induction of a consider-the-opposite strategy had greater corrective effect than more demand-laden alternative instructions to be as fair and unbiased as possible. The results are viewed as consistent with previous research on perseverance, hindsight, and logical problem solving, and are thought to suggest an effective method of retraining social judgment.