Oversampling of minority categories drives misperceptions of group compositions.
The ability to estimate proportions informs our immediate impressions of social environments (e.g., of the diversity of races or genders within a crowded room). This study examines how the distribution of attention during brief glances shapes estimates of group gender proportions. Performance-wise, subjects exhibit a canonical pattern of judgment errors: small proportions are overestimated while large values are underestimated. Subjects' eye movements at sub-second timescales reveal that these biases follow from a tendency to visually oversample members of the gender minority. Rates of oversampling dovetail with average levels of error magnitudes, response variability, and response times. Visual biases are thus associated with the inherent difficulty in estimating particular proportions. All results are replicated at a within-subjects level with non-human ensembles using natural scene stimuli; the observed attentional patterns and judgment biases are thus not exclusively guided by face-specific visual properties. Our results reveal the biased distribution of attention underlying typical judgment errors of group proportions.
Khaw, MW; Kranton, R; Huettel, S
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