Friday Factoid: What Are Your Expectations? The Impact of Expectation Bias in Cognitive Evaluations

Katelyn Yunes, MS

WKPIC Doctoral Intern


There is research to suggest that psychologists’ personal beliefs can exert influence over patient performance on cognitive assessment measures, such as the Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale, 4th Edition, particularly in relation to the patient’s substance-use status (Hirst et al., 2019; Yunes & Moncata, 2019). Nonverbal and overt cues may lead to skewed assessment results through expectation effects, stereotype threat, and cognitive heuristics (Looby & Earleywine, 2010; Rosenthal, 2009; Sodos et al., 2018; Steele & Aronson, 1995). With that being said, expectations may be necessary and unavoidable within the testing session, as psychologists may familiarize themselves with the expected clinical profile for a specific disorder based off of the referral question in order to facilitate test selection and thorough assessment of cognitive functioning. Therefore, a balance between evidence-based expectations and prevention measures is essential to address inadvertent effects of the examiner’s beliefs and predictions (Yunes & Moncata, 2019).



Hirst, R., Watson, J., Rosen, A., & Quittner, Z. (2019). Perceptions of the cognitive effects of cannabis use: A survey of neuropsychologists’ beliefs. Journal of Clinical and Experimental Neuropsychology41(2), 133–146.


Looby, A., & Earleywine, M. (2010). Gender moderates the impact of stereotype threat on cognitive function in cannabis users. Addictive Behaviors35(9), 834–839.


Rosenthal, R. (2009). Interpersonal expectations: Effects of the experimenter’s hypothesis. In R. Rosenthal & R. Rosnow (Eds.), Artifact in Behavioral Research (pp. 138–210). New York: Oxford University Press.


Sodos, L. M., Hirst, R. B., Watson, J., & Vaughn, D. (2018). Don’t judge a book by its bover: Examiner expectancy effects predict neuropsychological performance for individuals judged as chronic cannabis users. Archives Of Clinical Neuropsychology: The Official Journal Of The National Academy Of Neuropsychologists. 33(7), 821-831.


Steele, C. M., & Aronson, J. (1995). Stereotype threat and the intellectual test performance of African Americans.


Yunes, K., Moncata, S. (2019, August). Impact of psychologists’ attitudes concerning cannabis use on predictions of neurocognitive measures. Poster session presented at the American Psychological Association Annual Conference (Division 12), Chicago, IL.

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