Publication Date


Degree Program

Department of Psychology

Degree Type

Master of Arts


This study examined how prior expectancies affect young and older adults' contingency judgments. Participants completed contingency problems representing all combinations of expectancy (positive, negative, unrelated, and unknown) and contingency (positive, negative, and zero). I originally predicted that the largest age differences would emerge when both the expectancy and the contingency were strong and incongruent, regardless of the nature of the expectancy. However, age differences in the effect of expectancy were strongest when the expectancy was positive and the contingency was Incongruent, and older adults' judgments were more biased by this expectancy. Likewise, I predicted that there would be no age differences when the expectancy and the contingency were congruent, but young adults showed a greater confirmation effect than older adults when the expectancy was negative. The results may not have matched the predictions because they were based on the assumption that all types of expectancies would affect judgments in the same way. The findings of the current study suggest that this is not the case. Future research is needed to explain why certain types of expectancies affect young and older adults' contingency judgment differently.



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