Does the Range of the Confidence Scale Affect the Relationship Between Confidence and Accuracy?

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Description: Researchers use a wide range of confidence scales when measuring the relation between confidence and accuracy in reports from memory, with the highest number usually representing the greatest confidence (e.g., 4-point, 20-point and 100-point scales). The assumption seems to be that the range of the scale has little bearing on the confidence-accuracy relationship. In two old/new recognition experiments, we directly investigated this assumption using words lists (Experiment 1) and faces (Experiment 2) by employing 4-, 5-, 20-, and 100-point scales. Using confidence-accuracy characteristic plots (CAC), we asked whether confidence ratings would yield similar CAC plots, indicating comparability in use of the scales. For the comparisons, we divided 100-point and 20-point scales into bins of either four or five and asked (for example) whether confidence ratings of 4, 16-20 and 76-100 would yield similar values. The results show that, for both types of material, the different scales yield similar CAC plots. Notably, when subjects express high confidence, regardless of which scale they use, they are likely to be very accurate (even though they studied 100 words and 50 faces in each list in two experiments). The scales seem convertible from one to the other, and choice of scale range is probably not affecting research into the relation between confidence and accuracy. High confidence indicates high accuracy in recognition in the current experiments.

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