Deena Skolnick Weisberg

Errors of Scientific Understanding:
Revisiting the Seductive Allure Effect

Principal Investigator

Deena Skolnick Weisberg
Senior Fellow in Psychology
University of Pennsylvania


Previous research discovered a seductive allure effect for psychology: People judge explanations of psychological phenomena as significantly more satisfying when those explanations contain neuroscience information, even when this information is entirely irrelevant to the logic of the explanations. But is this effect unique to psychology or can it be seen in other sciences as well? And why does it happen; what is its function in our reasoning? Although this effect represents an error in judgment, its existence may reveal some underlying feature of how our sense of understanding works. But given that it is an error, how can we prevent it from happening? The current project investigates these issues with the goal of determining how naïve participants, expert scientists, and philosophers come to gain a sense of understanding from scientific explanations. This examination of people’s understanding of science provides an important case study for the nature of understanding in general.