Question Format and Representations:

Do Heuristics and Biases Apply

to Statistics Students?


Jennifer J. Kaplan

Michigan State University



Kansas State University





Researchers in the field of psychology studying subjects’ reasoning abilities and decision-making processes have identified certain common errors that are made, particularly on probability questions standard in introductory statistics courses. In addition, they have identified modifications to problems and training that promote normative reasoning in laboratory subjects. This study attempts to replicate, in the context of a statistics classroom, the results of one particular type of probability question, a two-stage conditional probability problem. The psychology literature suggests two possible implications for teaching probability. Although no effect for format modification was found, the representations training effects were replicated. The implications of these results for teaching and directions for future research are discussed.


Keywords: Statistics education research; Probability; Representations; Question format



Statistics Education Research Journal, 8(2), 56-73,

Ó International Association for Statistical Education (IASE/ISI), November, 2009




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443 Wells Hall

Department of Statistics and Probability

Michigan State University

East Lansing, MI 48824