Psychology Ph.D. Dissertations


Attitudes Toward Holistic and Mechanical Judgment in Employee Selection: Role of Error Rate and False Positive and False Negative Error

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)



First Advisor

Scott Highhouse, PhD

Second Advisor

Milton Hakel, PhD (Committee Member)

Third Advisor

Devin McAuley, PhD (Committee Member)

Fourth Advisor

Amelia Carr, PhD (Committee Member)


The overwhelming evidence in the literature favors mechanical judgment over holistic when making selection predictions. To date, no research has examined how the risk of error and the type of error in employee selection may impact attitudes toward holistic and mechanical judgment. Applying the principles of Error Management Theory (Haselton & Nettle, 2006), the goal of this research was to understand how the likelihood of specific types of selection errors (false positives versus false negatives) and the risk of these errors influence people’s attitudes toward holistic and mechanical judgment. Error rate (10% versus 40%) and type of error were investigated experimentally. A sample of 323 working adults took part in an experiment where they assumed the role of head of Human Resources for a large organization. Results of a fully crossed between-subjects design indicated an effect of error rate, but no effect of type of error on Perceived Usefulness of the selection procedure. There were also no interaction effects of judgment approach (holistic versus mechanical) and error rate or type of error. With the exploratory variable Perceived Legality, there was no effect of error rate, but there was an effect of type of error. The selection procedure was perceived to be less legal when false negative error was emphasized, as opposed to when false positive error was emphasized. Implications of these findings and future directions are discussed.