Conceptions of probability: Reality between a rock and a hard place

Konold, C. E.
University of Massachusetts

This study was undertaken with the goal of inferring an informal approach to probability that would explain, among other things, why subject responses to problems involving uncertainty deviate from those prescribed by formal theories. On the basis of an initial set of interviews such as an informal approach was hypothesized and described as outcome-oriented. In a second set of interviews, the outcome approach was used to successfully predict the performance of subjects on a different set of problems. In this chapter I will elaborate on the importance of understanding that subjects' performance in situations involving uncertainty is based on a theoretical framework that is different in important respects from any formal theory of probability. Additionally, I will argue that the outcome approach is reasonable given the nature of the decisions people face in a natural environment. To this end, I will review research which suggests some reasons why causal as opposed to statistical explanations of events are salient and functionally adaptive.

The CAUSE Research Group is supported in part by a member initiative grant from the American Statistical Association’s Section on Statistics and Data Science Education