Author's School

Graduate School of Arts & Sciences

Author's Department/Program



English (en)

Date of Award

Winter 1-1-2012

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Chair and Committee

Pascal Boyer


The studies reported here explore some of the cognitive contours of epistemic vigilance--that is, how the mind adaptively tracks and monitors information. These studies ask how the mind considers the source of new information when making epistemic judgments. Four experiments investigate the role of source information in modulating the "truth bias": an automatic tendency to presume new information is true). An evolutionary hypothesis is advanced: that a "support bias" exists for sources with special coalitional relevance: e.g., a best friend) that interacts with the truth bias to produce supportive patterns of recall that are unique to that source. Results partially support this hypothesis. Participants who read statements ostensibly from a real best friend: identified by participants) show patterns of recall that differ from recall for statements from other sources, and these patterns are consistent with a "support bias" interpretation. These results may be influenced by valence; using sources who are positive and negative: but not coalitional) also elicit modified patterns of recall--but not at the level of automatic belief. Finally, when the communicated content is precautionary information, evidence for the truth bias and the support bias disappears. The need for additional study of source-processing, and its relationship to statement structure and content, is discussed.


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