A Bayesian view of covariation assessment


Authors: 
Craig R.M. Mckenzie and Laurie A. Mikkelsen
Volume: 
54
Pages: 
online
Year: 
2007
Publisher: 
Cognitive psychology
URL: 
http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0010028506000260
Abstract: 

When participants assess the relationship between two variables, each with levels of presence and absence, the two most robust phenomena are that: (a) observing the joint presence of the variables has the largest impact on judgment and observing joint absence has the smallest impact, and (b) participants' prior beliefs about the variables' relationship influence judgment. Both phenomena represent departures from the traditional normative model (the phi coefficient or related measures) and have therefore been interpreted as systematic errors. However, both phenomena are consistent with a Bayesian approach to the task. From a Bayesian perspective: (a) joint presence is normatively more informative than joint absence if the presence of variables is rarer than their absence, and (b) "failing" to incorporate prior beliefs is a normative error. Empirical evidence is reported showing that joint absence is seen as more informative than joint presence when it is clear that absence of the variables, rather than their presence, is rare.

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