Background beliefs in Bayesian inference

Jonathan St B.T. Evans, Simon J. Handley, David E. Over, Nicholas Perham

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

39 Citations (Scopus)


We report five experiments in which the role of background beliefs in social judgments of posterior probability was investigated. From a Bayesian perspective, people should combine prior probabilities (or base rates) and diagnostic evidence with equal weighting, although previous research shows that base rates are often underweighted. These experiments were designed so that either piece of information was supplied either by personal beliefs or by presented statistics, and regression analyses were performed on individual participants to assess the relative influence of information. We found that both prior probabilities and diagnostic information significantly influenced judgments, whether supplied by beliefs or by statistical information, but that belief-based information tended to dominate the judgments made.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)179-190
Number of pages12
JournalMemory and Cognition
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2002
Externally publishedYes


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