Judgments about relationships or covariations between events are central to several areas of research and theory in social psychology. In the present article, the normative, or statistically correct, model for making covariation judgments is outlined in detail. Six steps of the normative model, from deciding what data are relevant to the judgment to using the judgment as a basis for predictions and decisions, are specified. Potential sources of error in social perceivers’ covariation judgments are identified at each step, and research on social perceivers’ ability to follow each step in the normative model is reviewed. It is concluded that statistically naive individuals have a tenuous grasp of the concept of covariation, and circumstances under which covariation judgments tend to be accurate or inaccurate are considered. Finally, implications for research on attribution theory, implicit personality theory, stereotyping, and perceived control are discussed.
Crocker, J. (1981). Judgment of covariation by social perceivers. Psychological Bulletin, 90(2), 272-292.