Doubting one's doubt: A formula for confidence?

Aaron L. Wichman*, Pablo Briñol, Richard E. Petty, Derek D. Rucker, Zakary L. Tormala, Gifford Weary

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

31 Scopus citations


People feel, think, and act differently when doubt rather than confidence is accessible. A traditional perspective on the accessibility of doubt holds that multiple sources of doubt activation should lead to increased levels of uncertainty. In contrast, we find that under some conditions two sequential sources of doubt activation result in decreased levels of uncertainty. We suggest that this follows from a meta-cognitive process in which people come to "doubt their doubt." In Study 1, individuals with chronically accessible uncertainty who were further exposed to an uncertainty manipulation paradoxically reported reduced uncertainty. In Study 2, participants were first primed with doubt or certainty and then exposed to a manipulation associated with either confidence (i.e., head nodding) or doubt (head shaking). Supporting the idea that people can either trust or doubt their own doubts, head nodding (vs. shaking) accentuated (vs. attenuated) the impact of the initial doubt vs. certainty manipulation. These findings advance the literature on meta-cognition, self-doubt, and embodiment, and may have clinical applications.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)350-355
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Experimental Social Psychology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 2010


  • Confidence
  • Embodiment
  • Meta-cognition
  • Self-doubt
  • Uncertainty

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Sociology and Political Science


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