Behavior under Conditions of Uncertainty: Empirical Probes of Subjective Probability
A particular pattern of responses is produced when adults are required to make a series of choices between two possible outcomes without benefit of feedback or other information upon which to estimate probabilities of a particular outcome. The predictability of such patterning affirms that guessing behavior is organized by subjectively held "beliefs" about random events - a "subjective probability notion." The study replicated previous findings of a typical or "normal" pattern of guessing behaviors for adults (Lawlor 1956). Further, a Q study of subjective probability notions revealed four factors. Behaviors of representatives and non-representatives of these four factors were examined under three other conditions of uncertainty: coin-toss guessing patterns, narrative responses to Thematic Apperception Test (TAT) pictures, and verbalized perceptions in response to Rorschach's inkblots. Consistent response patterns for representatives of two factors, "normal" and "atypical," were found across conditions of uncertainty, suggesting that subjective probability notions are indicators of underlying core personality constructs. Consistent response patterns associated with the two other factors were less clearly manifest, suggesting that these two Q factors represent "reaction types," rather than established subjective probability notions. The results overall demonstrate that psychological dispositions, "personality variables," or "subjectively-held organizational orientations" (Brunswik 1939) can be studied scientifically and found to be lawful determinants of human behavior.