Promoting Probabilistic Reasoning: The Interplay of Learner, Task, and Text

Open Access
Author:
Zeruth, Jill Ann
Graduate Program:
Educational Psychology
Degree:
Doctor of Philosophy
Document Type:
Dissertation
Date of Defense:
June 19, 2008
Committee Members:
  • Pricilla Karen Murphy, Committee Chair
  • Jonna Marie Kulikowich, Committee Member
  • Rayne Audrey Sperling, Committee Member
  • Jeffery Todd Ulmer, Committee Member
Keywords:
  • conceptual change
  • probabilistic reasoning
  • probability
  • misconceptions
Abstract:
This dissertation was an investigation of misconceptions in probabilistic reasoning. Existing research cites misconceptions in probability as being common and pervasive (Shaughnessy, 1977). Moreover, research suggests that altering misconceptions in probability is an undertaking of paramount proportions (Konold, 1995). Specifically, the purpose of this study was to investigate mechanisms for enhancing college-age students’ probabilistic reasoning and decreasing their inappropriate use of the representativeness heuristic when reasoning about the outcomes of uncertain events. Representativeness is defined as a heuristic often used in situations concerning an object belonging to a class, an event originating from a process, or the probability that a process will bring life to an event (Hirsch & O’Donnell, 2001). The sample for this dissertation study included graduate and undergraduate students from two introductory educational psychology courses. The two methods employed as interventions for decreasing the inappropriate use of the representativeness heuristic were anchored scenarios and a text. While the anchored scenarios served as a potential intervention for this purpose, the text employed in this study appeared to have a more potent effect on the participants’ inappropriate use of the representativeness heuristic over time. For instance, the participants in the Text condition demonstrated larger gains in scores on the representativeness instrument from the preintervention to the immediate postintervention and while all three conditions experienced decreases in scores from the immediate to the delayed postintervention times the participants in the Text condition experienced the slightest decrease. Results of the data analyses suggest that a two-sided refutational text is a viable method for decreasing the inappropriate use of the representativeness heuristic in college-age students.