Counterfactual Thinking and the First Instinct Fallacy

Counterfactual Thinking and the First Instinct Fallacy (pdf); a research paper on whether or not it’s better to change your answer when taking multiple-choice tests. The abstract:

Most people believe that they should avoid changing their answer when taking multiple-choice tests. Virtually all research on this topic, however, suggests that this strategy is ill-founded: most answer changes are from incorrect to correct, and people who change their answers usually improve their test scores. Why do people believe in this strategy if the data so strongly refute it? We argue that the belief is in part a product of counterfactual thinking. Changing an answer when one should have stuck with one’s original answer leads to more “if only…” self-recriminations than does sticking with one’s first instinct when one should have switched. As a consequence, instances of the former are more memorable than instances of the latter.

via Overcoming Bias

(As a sidenote, I really do like seeing the word ‘data’ used correctly.)