The effects and side-effects of statistics education: Psychology students' (mis-)conceptions of probability

Kinga Morsanyi*, Caterina Primi, Francesca Chiesi, Simon Handley

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

35 Citations (Scopus)


In three studies we looked at two typical misconceptions of probability: the representativeness heuristic, and the equiprobability bias. The literature on statistics education predicts that some typical errors and biases (e.g., the equiprobability bias) increase with education, whereas others decrease. This is in contrast with reasoning theorists' prediction who propose that education reduces misconceptions in general. They also predict that students with higher cognitive ability and higher need for cognition are less susceptible to biases. In Experiments 1 and 2 we found that the equiprobability bias increased with statistics education, and it was negatively correlated with students' cognitive abilities. The representativeness heuristic was mostly unaffected by education, and it was also unrelated to cognitive abilities. In Experiment 3 we demonstrated through an instruction manipulation (by asking participants to think logically vs. rely on their intuitions) that the reason for these differences was that these biases originated in different cognitive processes.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)210-220
Number of pages11
JournalContemporary Educational Psychology
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2009
Externally publishedYes


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