Accessibility revisited

Highlighting the role of information accessibility in human judgment has been one of the core contributions of social cognition research. As Wyer and Srull put it in their integrative review, “the knowledge we have acquired and used most recently has a disproportionate influence on judgments and decisions to which it is relevant. These effects [… ] appear to be evident at all stages of information processing.” This insight has changed the field's perspective on human judgment and has become one of the most influential ideas that social psychology has contributed to the social sciences at large. Three related propositions have received particular attention, acquiring the status of truisms in social cognition research. These three propositions have received ample support across many content domains and are compatible with associative network models as well as bin models of human memory. Nevertheless, they share the fate of many other exceptionally fruitful ideas in the history of science: By stimulating diverse novel lines of inquiry, they run the risk of eventually encountering data that are incompatible with the original formulation. In the present case, the accumulating body of research into knowledge accessibility increasingly indicates that the above truisms fail to capture the full complexity of accessibility phenomena in human judgment. In fact, we cannot predict how accessible information influences a judgment without taking additional variables into account. This Chapter addresses these complexities. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2007 APA, all rights reserved) (from the create)