Memory & Cognition

, Volume 46, Issue 8, pp 1331–1343 | Cite as

Fluency misattribution and auditory hindsight bias

  • Daniel M. BernsteinEmail author
  • Ragav Kumar
  • Michael E. J. Masson
  • Daniel J. Levitin


We conducted three experiments to test the fluency-misattribution account of auditory hindsight bias. According to this account, prior exposure to a clearly presented auditory stimulus produces fluent (improved) processing of a distorted version of that stimulus, which results in participants mistakenly rating that item as easy to identify. In all experiments, participants in an exposure phase heard clearly spoken words zero, one, three, or six times. In the test phase, we examined auditory hindsight bias by manipulating whether participants heard a clear version of a target word just prior to hearing the distorted version of that word. Participants then estimated the ability of naïve peers to identify the distorted word. Auditory hindsight bias and the number of priming presentations during the exposure phase interacted underadditively in their prediction of participants’ estimates: When no clear version of the target word appeared prior to the distorted version of that word in the test phase, participants identified target words more often the more frequently they heard the clear word in the exposure phase. Conversely, hearing a clear version of the target word at test produced similar estimates, regardless of the number of times participants heard clear versions of those words during the exposure phase. As per Roberts and Sternberg’s (Attention and Performance XIV, pp. 611–653, 1993) additive factors logic, this finding suggests that both auditory hindsight bias and repetition priming contribute to a common process, which we propose involves a misattribution of processing fluency. We conclude that misattribution of fluency accounts for auditory hindsight bias.


Repetition priming Decision making Judgment 



We thank Alex Wilson, Jamie Rich, and Bill Peria for help with stimulus preparation, and Bert Sager for helpful suggestions. This work was supported by grants to Daniel M. Bernstein from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (435-2015-0721) and the Canada Research Chairs Program (950-228407), and by discovery grants to Michael Masson (7910) and Daniel J. Levitin (228175-10) from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada.


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Copyright information

© Psychonomic Society, Inc. 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Daniel M. Bernstein
    • 1
    Email author
  • Ragav Kumar
    • 2
  • Michael E. J. Masson
    • 2
  • Daniel J. Levitin
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of PsychologyKwantlen Polytechnic UniversitySurreyCanada
  2. 2.University of VictoriaVictoriaCanada
  3. 3.McGill UniversityMontrealCanada

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