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External Validity of Laboratory Experiments: The Frequency-Validity Relationship

Gerd Gigerenzer
The American Journal of Psychology
Vol. 97, No. 2 (Summer, 1984), pp. 185-195
DOI: 10.2307/1422594
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/1422594
Page Count: 11
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External Validity of Laboratory Experiments: The Frequency-Validity Relationship
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Abstract

The question of the generalizability of laboratory experiments to the "natural settings of ordinary people" was investigated in a case study on the frequency-validity relationship. Previously advocated by John Locke and David Hartley, this relationship states that the mere repetition of plausible but unfamiliar assertions increases the belief in the validity of the assertions, independent of their actual truth or falsity. The external validity of this relationship was tested for a random sample drawn from telephone listings of adults living in Schwabing, Munich. Subjects were tested in their homes rather than in a university laboratory. The increase in mean validity judgments by repetition, its independence from actual truth or falsity, as well as the absolute and relative size of the effect were found to be in excellent agreement with previous laboratory findings. The external validity of the frequency-validity relationship would therefore seem to be demonstrated. In addition, the relationship seems independent of the intersession intervals, the time intervals between the assertions, and the sex of the person making the assertions. This result is consistent with the hypothesis of "automatic" processing of frequency.

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