People’s intuitions about randomness AND

probability: an empirical study


Marie-Paule Lecoutre

ERIS, Université de Rouen


Katia Rovira

Laboratoire Psy.Co, Université de Rouen


Bruno Lecoutre

ERIS, C.N.R.S. et Université de Rouen


Jacques Poitevineau

ERIS, Université de Paris 6 et Ministère de la Culture




What people mean by randomness should be taken into account when teaching statistical inference. This experiment explored subjective beliefs about randomness and probability through two successive tasks. Subjects were asked to categorize 16 familiar items: 8 real items from everyday life experiences, and 8 stochastic items involving a repeatable process. Three groups of subjects differing according to their background knowledge of probability theory were compared. An important finding is that the arguments used to judge if an event is random and those to judge if it is not random appear to be of different natures. While the concept of probability has been introduced to formalize randomness, a majority of individuals appeared to consider probability as a primary concept.


Keywords: Statistics education research; Probability; Randomness; Bayesian Inference




Statistics Education Research Journal, 5(1), 20-35,

Ó International Association for Statistical Education (IASE/ISI), May, 2006






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Marie-Paule Lecoutre

ERIS, Laboratoire Psy.Co, E.A. 1780

Université de Rouen, UFR Psychologie, Sociologie, Sciences de l’Education

76821 Mont-Saint-Aignan Cedex, France