Facing Intuition: A functional characterization of intuitive judgment in the context of face perception

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URI: http://hdl.handle.net/10900/79117
Dokumentart: Dissertation
Date: 2017
Language: English
Faculty: 7 Mathematisch-Naturwissenschaftliche Fakultät
Department: Graduiertenkollegs
Advisor: Volz, Kirsten (PD Dr.)
Day of Oral Examination: 2017-05-10
DDC Classifikation: 000 - Computer science, information and general works
100 - Philosophy
150 - Psychology
500 - Natural sciences and mathematics
Keywords: Kognitionswissenschaft , Gesichtserkennung , Intuition
Other Keywords: Urteilsforschung
social judgments
face perception
License: Publishing license excluding print on demand
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Intuition is by some conceived of as biased and by others as an important tool to make decisions in a fast paced and uncertain world. Yet, within social interactions, intuitively judging is often the only feasible option to interpret the content of our most important social signals, thus facilitating attunement to social affordances. In fact, humans expertly extract and use face information in an automatic and non-conscious fashion. Is intuition therefore a fundamental building block of the toolbox we need to adapt to the various challenges of life as social beings? How does this fit the notion of intuition as irrational and error-prone? Among the most widely cited models of intuition that are engaging with these types of questions within contemporary psychology, are dual process theories. However, as the first part of this thesis will show, they do not suffice as general explanatory framework for intuition. With the surfacing of more issues regarding general dual process models, the explanatory value of this dualistic distinction diminishes. Rather than trying to ascertain in which way the supposed antagonists of intuition and analysis interact with each other, a shift in focus has been proposed. I therefore join the recent endeavor by a different stream of judgment and decision making researchers, to focus on investigating functional characteristics of intuitive processes along different domains and dimensions. The aim of this work is to investigate the cognitive processing characteristics and conditions which enable the intuitive perception of and reaction to our most important objects of social judgments. To achieve this, I draw on several empirical investigations, as well as theoretical considerations. In contrast to current trends in face perception research, this puts the focus on the cognitive processes that facilitate the integration of these percepts into social judgments. The theoretical foundations of this thesis are two-fold. Firstly, the characterization of intuition as a judgment and decision making process, which operates rapidly, automatically, without conscious awareness of the decision maker and with the inclusion of some type of feeling as judgment signal. Secondly, the context of face perception. Face perception is intuitive and essential for successful social interactions. The processes enabling face perception are performed without conscious awareness or interference and with a surprising swiftness, considering the amount of multi-attribute information that needs to be integrated. The face perception context therefore provides a naturalistic context for the study of every-day type intuitive judgments. It further provides the opportunity to learn more about the cognitive processes that shape our social interactions. This dissertation utilizes a multi-part research design. It is based on the conceptual analyses of two popular notions of intuition in contemporary psychological research, namely the defaultinterventionist model and the notion of intuition as feeling based process, respectively. The key results of these theoretical considerations are, firstly, that in several instances deliberation can actually lead to more errors than intuitive processing, thus calling the generality of default-interventionist models into question. Secondly, the close analysis of two investigations into visceral signals evoked during intuitive judgments provides evidence that rather than a single ‘gut feeling’ playing a role in intuition, the type of feelings elicited in intuitive judgments may depend on the task or the type of intuitive process being engaged. It remains to be investigated, what types of feelings are constitutively linked to intuition and when they are expected to enter the process. The second part of the present thesis relies on empirical investigations of functional characteristics of intuitive social judgments, utilizing the tracking of eye movements as process trace. Intuition is -- by most definitions -- an implicit, internal, not consciously accessible process. More specifically, intuitively gathered information is integrated into mental representations that are thought to be constructed by a gradual, automatic, non-conscious process. Only the result of this process enters awareness. This necessarily poses a great challenge for the study of the processing characteristics of intuitive judgment behavior. One answer to this challenge is to focus on different dimensions of operation which, can either be directly manipulated or investigated without needing to rely on the subjective awareness of the decision maker. As Gustav Fechner famously proposed, subjective experience is a physical process. Thus, measuring the physical properties of internal processes allows for some measure of access to the otherwise inaccessible subjective experience. In this respect, eye movement measures provide a physical basis for the study of internal processes. If I focus on the forehead region of your face to determine whether you furrow your eyebrows or crinkle your forehead, I am attending to a cue which allows me to gauge if you have understood my argument or I lost you in confusion. Noting where a person looks thus allows for insight into the locus of attention and thus the strategy used to extract meaning from the attended cue. Tracing eye movement in task involving intuitive processes makes it possible to gain insight into the information integration strategies supporting these strategies. The key results of these investigations are that individuals employing an intuitive strategy to judge faces rely on holistic information integration processes revealed by an attention map centralized in the stimulus space. Furthermore, the reliance on an intuitive processing strategy to judge another person depends on individual, internal factors, as well as external factors, such as the task domain. Specifically, we find that individuals use similar cognitive processes to judge the gender identity of a person, irrespective of their own sexual orientation. When it comes to judging the sexual orientation of another person, however, the reliance on an intuitive processing strategy is moderated by the sexual orientation of the perceiver. While the general efficacy of intuition will most likely remain a topic of ongoing debate, the social judgment domain offers a great opportunity for the characterization of intuitive processes in an ecologically valid and motivationally relevant context. This dissertation provides further evidence for the usefulness of intuitive processes in social judgments. Low-level visual perception of social cues impacts impression formation and social evaluations. At the same time, the relationship between visual perception and the social/cultural practices these visual processes are trained on is dynamic and bi-directional. Elucidating the functional characteristics and contributions of intuitive processes to the formation of these percepts is thus of fundamental importance. Not only for the furthering of the theoretical debate on intuition, but also to understand the processes which determine social evaluations. In the future, the thereby gained insights may become the building blocks for the development of techniques to overcome the effects of negative social evaluations.

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