Things Change - But When? A Top-Down Approach to Understanding How People Judge Change Thresholds

The Routledge International Handbook of Changes in Human Perceptions and Behaviors, Forthcoming

27 Pages Posted: 12 Jan 2023

See all articles by Ed O'Brien

Ed O'Brien

University of Chicago - Booth School of Business

Date Written: January 11, 2023

Abstract

Things change. And yet, the precise point at which they do—i.e., the change threshold—is often harder for people to discern, especially in rich everyday domains of self and social judgment (e.g., judging the precise point at which one’s relationship has “officially” eroded or the precise point at which bad actors have “officially” reformed). The traditional approach to understanding people’s crossing of these change thresholds has assumed a more bottom-up process: Here the assumption is that things change at some objective, external, and stable point, within the stimulus (vs. within the perceiver)—which people can passively detect so long as they have the right tools. In contrast, the current chapter approaches this issue through the lens of a more top-down process: Here the assumption is that things change at a subjective, internal, and dynamic point, within the perceiver (vs. within the stimulus)—which people actively construct on the spot. The current chapter reviews diverse and converging evidence in support of this top-down approach. Ultimately, I argue that by understanding people’s crossing of change thresholds as a top-down (vs. bottom-up) process, psychological research on change judgment can advance more nuanced insights into when and why people judge change (in)accurately.

Keywords: change perception, change judgment, evaluative judgment, social cognition

Suggested Citation

O'Brien, Ed, Things Change - But When? A Top-Down Approach to Understanding How People Judge Change Thresholds (January 11, 2023). The Routledge International Handbook of Changes in Human Perceptions and Behaviors, Forthcoming, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=4322945 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.4322945

Ed O'Brien (Contact Author)

University of Chicago - Booth School of Business ( email )

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