Is the Intuitive Statistician Eager or Lazy? : Exploring the Cognitive Processes of Intuitive Statistical Judgments

Sammanfattning: Numerical information is ubiquitous and people are continuously engaged in evaluating it by means of intuitive statistical judgments. Much research has evaluated if people’s judgments live up to the norms of statistical theory but directed far less attention to the cognitive processes that underlie the judgments.The present thesis outlines, compares, and tests two cognitive models for intuitive statistical judgments, summarized in the metaphors of the lazy and eager intuitive statistician. In short, the lazy statistician postpones judgments to the time of a query when the properties of a small sample of values retrieved from memory serve as proxies for population properties. In contrast, the eager statistician abstracts summary representations of population properties online from incoming data.Four empirical studies were conducted. Study I outlined the two models and investigated whether an eager or a lazy statistician best describes how people make intuitive statistical judgments. In general the results supported the notion that people spontaneously engage in a lazy process. Under certain specific conditions, however, participants were able to induce abstract representations of the experienced data. Study II and Study III extended the models to describe naive point estimates (Study II) and inference about a generating distribution (Study III). The results indicated that both the former and the latter type of judgment was better described by a lazy than an eager model. Finally, Study IV, building on the support in Studies I-III, investigated boundary conditions for a lazy model by exploring if statistical judgments are influenced by common memory effects (primacy and recency). The results indicated no such effects, suggesting that the sampling from long-term memory in a lazy process is not conditional on when the data is encountered.The present thesis makes two major contributions. First, the lazy and eager models are first attempts at outlining a process model that could possibly be applied for a large variety of statistical judgments. Second, because a lazy process imposes boundary conditions on the accuracy of statistical judgments, the results suggest that the limitations of a lazy intuitive statistician would need to be taken into consideration in a variety of situations.