Experientially grounded learning about the roles of variability, sample size, and difference between means in statistical reasoning

Yu, J., Goldstone, R. L., & Landy, D. (2018). Experientially grounded learning about the roles of variability, sample size, and difference between means in statistical reasoning.  Proceedings of the 40th Annual Conference of the Cognitive Science Society. (pp. 2744-2749). Madison, Wisconsin: Cognitive Science Society.

 Despite its omnipresence in this information-laden society, statistics is hard. The present study explored the applicability of a grounded cognition approach to learning basic statistical concepts. Participants in 2 experiments interacted with perceptually rich computer simulations designed to foster understanding of the relations between fundamental statistical concepts and to promote the ability to reason with statistics. During training, participants were asked to estimate the probability of two samples coming from the same population, with sample size, variability, and difference between means independently manipulated. The amount of learning during training was measured by the difference between participants’ confidence judgments and those of an Ideal Observer. The amount of transfer was assessed by the increase in accuracy from a pretest to a posttest. Learning and transfer were observed when tailored guidance was given along with the perceptually salient properties. Implications of our quantitative measures of human sensitivity to statistical concepts were discussed.

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