Subjective Confidence in One's Answers: The Consensuality Principle

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In answering general-information questions, a within-person confidence-accuracy (C-A) correlation is typically observed, suggesting that people can monitor the correctness of their knowledge. However, because the correct answer is generally the consensual answer-the one endorsed by most participants-confidence judgment may actually monitor the consensuality of the answer rather than its correctness. Indeed, the C-A correlation was positive for items with a consensually correct answer but negative for items with a consensually wrong answer. Results suggest that the consensuality-confidence correlation may be mediated by 2 internal mnemonic cues that are correlated with consensuality: Consensual answers are reached faster and are selected more consistently by the same person on different occasions than nonconsensual answers. The results argue against a direct-access view of confidence judgments and suggest that such judgments will be accurate only as long as people's responses are by and large correct across the sampled items, thus stressing the criticality of a representative design.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)945-959
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Experimental Psychology: Learning Memory and Cognition
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jul 2008


  • confidence-accuracy relationship
  • consensuality
  • metacognition
  • probabilistic mental models
  • subjective confidence

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Language and Linguistics
  • Linguistics and Language


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