Behavior under Conditions of Uncertainty: Empirical Probes of Subjective Probability

Main Article Content

Robert M. Lipgar


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.

Article Details

How to Cite
Lipgar, R. M. (2002). Behavior under Conditions of Uncertainty: Empirical Probes of Subjective Probability. Operant Subjectivity, 25(3/4). Retrieved from