The Coherence Effect: Blending Cold and Hot Cognitions

Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 109(3), 369-394 (2015)

USC Law Legal Studies Paper No. 15-23

USC CLASS Research Paper No. CLASS15-23

26 Pages Posted: 15 Jul 2015 Last revised: 8 Sep 2015

See all articles by Dan Simon

Dan Simon

University of Southern California Gould School of Law

Doug Stenstrom

California State University, Los Angeles

Stephen J. Read

University of Southern California - Department of Psychology

Date Written: July 27, 2015

Abstract

Previous research has shown that making complex judgments and decisions entails a mental reconstruction of the task in a way that increases the state of coherence between the emerging conclusion and its underlying attributes. The current studies were designed to extend the coherence effect to encompass cognitions that could be considered “hot,” such as valence evaluations, motivation toward outcomes of events, liking and disliking of actors, and emotions toward actors.

Study 1 found that evaluations of a complex social relationship were accompanied not only by supportive interpretations of the ambiguous facts, but also by concordant hot cognitions. Studies 2 through 4 included manipulations to demonstrate the spreading of coherence from cold to hot cognitions and in the opposite direction. We observed these effects following a manipulation of the facts (Study 2), a manipulation of participants’ emotions toward the actor (Study 3), and a manipulation of participants’ motivation toward the outcome of the case (Study 4).

These results support the proposition that complex judgments and decisions are performed by coherence-based reasoning: a holistic, connectionist process that maximizes coherence among and between the myriad of factors involved in the tasks and the hot cognitive reactions to them.

Note: (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2015 APA, all rights reserved)

Keywords: Coherence Effect, Decision Making, Hot cognitions

Suggested Citation

Simon, Dan and Stenstrom, Doug and Read, Stephen J., The Coherence Effect: Blending Cold and Hot Cognitions (July 27, 2015). Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 109(3), 369-394 (2015), USC Law Legal Studies Paper No. 15-23, USC CLASS Research Paper No. CLASS15-23, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2630884

Dan Simon (Contact Author)

University of Southern California Gould School of Law ( email )

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Los Angeles, CA 90089
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213-740-0168 (Phone)
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HOME PAGE: http://weblaw.usc.edu/faculty/contactInfo.cfm?detailID=307

Doug Stenstrom

California State University, Los Angeles ( email )

5151 State University Dr
Los Angeles, CA 90032
United States

Stephen J. Read

University of Southern California - Department of Psychology ( email )

SGM 501
Los Angeles, CA 90089-1061
United States

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