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Mem Cognit. 2018 Nov;46(8):1223-1233. doi: 10.3758/s13421-016-0652-5.

Evidence that photos promote rosiness for claims about the future.

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Victoria University of Wellington, Wellington, New Zealand.
Mind and Society Center, Department of Psychology, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, CA, 90089-1061, USA.
University of Victoria, Victoria, British Columbia, Canada.
Victoria University of Wellington, Wellington, New Zealand.


When people rapidly judge the truth of claims about the present or the past, a related but nonprobative photo can produce "truthiness," an increase in the perceived truth of those claims (Newman, Garry, Bernstein, Kantner, & Lindsay, 2012). What we do not know is the extent to which nonprobative photos cause truthiness for the future. We addressed this issue in four experiments. In each experiment, people judged the truth of claims that the price of certain commodities (such as manganese) would increase (or decrease). Half of the time, subjects saw a photo of the commodity paired with the claim. Experiments 1A and 1B produced a "rosiness" bias: Photos led people to believe positive claims about the future but had very little effect on people's belief in negative claims. In Experiment 2, rosiness occurred for both close and distant future claims. In Experiments 3A and 3B, we tested whether rosiness was tied to the perceived positivity of a claim. Finally, in Experiments 4A and 4B, we tested the rosiness hypothesis and found that rosiness was unique to claims about the future: When people made the same judgments about the past, photos produced the usual truthiness pattern for both positive and negative claims. Considered all together, our data fit with the idea that photos may operate as hypothesis-confirming evidence for people's tendency to anticipate rosy future outcomes.


Fluency; Future thinking; Photographs; Truthiness


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