Simple predictions fueled by capacity limitations: When are they successful?

Wolfgang Gaissmaier, Lael J. Schooler, Jörg Rieskamp

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

51 Scopus citations


Counterintuitively, Y. Kareev, I. Lieberman, and M. Lev (1997) found that a lower short-term memory capacity benefits performance on a correlation detection task. They assumed that people with low short-term memory capacity (low spans) perceived the correlations as more extreme because they relied on smaller samples, which are known to exaggerate correlations. The authors consider, as an alternative hypothesis, that low spans do not perceive exaggerated correlations but make simpler predictions. Modeling both hypotheses in ACT-R demonstrates that simpler predictions impair performance if the environment changes, whereas a more exaggerated perception of correlation is advantageous to detect a change. Congruent with differences in the way participants make predictions, 2 experiments revealed a low capacity advantage before the environment changes but a high capacity advantage afterward, although this pattern of results surprisingly only existed for men.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)966-982
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of Experimental Psychology: Learning Memory and Cognition
Issue number5
StatePublished - Sep 2006
Externally publishedYes


  • ACT-R
  • Correlation detection
  • Probability learning
  • Sex differences
  • Short term memory capacity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Linguistics and Language


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