Think Again Before Erasing That Scantron Bubble

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Theres nothing more frustrating than changing an answer on a testand then finding out your first instinct was correct.

In fact, theres a circulating theory that students should stick with their first answer on a multiple choice test, unless they are entirely sure that its wrong.

The theory says that your first answer is typically right.

Well, over the course of 33 studies, researchers have found that this theory is a complete hoax.

Heres what they found . . .

In an article in Mays Journal of Personality and Social Psychology (Vol. 88, No. 5), the researchers present their findings that people buy into the first-instinct myth because it feels worse to change a correct answer to an incorrect one than to stick with an original incorrect answer. And that feeling makes changing right answers to wrong more memorable than a wrong-to-right change and therefore seemingly more probable.

The researchers examined the introductory psychology midterm exams of 1,561 University of Illinois students for eraser marks. They counted the number of times students changed answers and found that 51 percent of the changes were from wrong to right, 25 percent were from right to wrong and 23 percent were from wrong to wrong. Changes from wrong to right outnumbered changes from right to wrong 2-to-1, Kruger points out.

When the researchers surveyed 51 of those students for their intuitions on answer-changing, 75 percent expected changes from right to wrong to outnumber changes from wrong to righta sentiment proven false by the eraser marks on the students tests.

In further tests, students indicated that switching a correct answer to an incorrect answer is more regrettable, frustrating and memorable than failing to switch from an incorrect answer.

Its not that first instincts are generally bad or wrongjust that people are too conservative in changing answers.

Read more from the study . . .