How fast small things become large: Dynamic change in judgment

Elfering, Achim (2007). How fast small things become large: Dynamic change in judgment. International journal of psychology, 42(4), pp. 274-284. Hove: Psychology Press 10.1080/00207590600831821

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Judgments are context bound. Moreover, in most situations, context is changing; hence judgments often reflect a dynamic adaptation to these changes. This study is on working memory load as a factor that potentially moderates speed of adaptation to new context. Two specific stimulus formats used in generalization tests, simultaneous vs successive presentation, were intended to reflect substantial differences in memory load. Conditions that place a higher memory load on the respondent (successive presentation) should show slower changing effects than do conditions that entail a lower memory load (simultaneous presentation). Sixty participants were trained in two stimulus two forced-choice visual discriminations of size. Later generalization tests included more extreme visual stimuli. The stimulus that was seen as neither “small” nor “large” (50% ratings each) changed in the direction of the central stimuli within the stimulus series, with both successive and simultaneous stimulus presentation (adaptation). Multilevel regression analyses showed that change increased gradually in successive stimulus presentation, whereas change was immediate in simultaneous presentation. A significant three-way interaction indicated that generalization was faster with simultaneous presentation of generalization test stimuli than with successive presentation. The results showed that the speed of Point of Subjective Indifference (PSI) shift depends on the mental representation of experience that is strongly related to working memory. The study therefore makes a contribution to the understanding the speed of behavioural change during transition, e.g., the transition from school to work. On a macro-level, model application may assist rapid learning and behavioural adaptation, for instance when individuals change from one cultural context to another.

Item Type:

Journal Article (Original Article)


07 Faculty of Human Sciences > Institute of Psychology > Work and Organisational Psychology

UniBE Contributor:

Elfering, Achim




Psychology Press




Factscience Import

Date Deposited:

04 Oct 2013 15:01

Last Modified:

05 Dec 2022 14:18

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Web of Science ID:




URI: (FactScience: 66879)

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