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Adult age differences in thinking styles and probabilistic reasoning : the effect of natural frequencies

Stock, R A (2012) Adult age differences in thinking styles and probabilistic reasoning : the effect of natural frequencies. Doctoral thesis, Liverpool John Moores University.

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Abstract

Probabilistic reasoning is a distinct type of reasoning which previous evidence has found to be particularly difficult for both naive and expert participants in laboratory research. The current study looked at probabilistic reasoning performance in the light of dual- process theories of thinking and reasoning, using thinking style measures to investigate whether normative reasoning is indeed most often associated with a tendency to reason analytically, rather than heuristically. The tasks were presented both as probabilities, requiring participants to think of the chance of a given event happening once and as frequencies, requiring participants to imagine a large number of times or people, and suggesting what number of these might involve the given event. The latter is believed to prime the analytical process of reasoning, particularly when natural, rather than normalised, frequencies are used. Two age groups were used in order to examine the relationship between cognitive ageing and probabilistic reasoning, and to provide greater variability in a range of individual differences. Using samples of young participants (18-32 years) and older participants (>60 years) the studies reported in this thesis did find a consistent effect of format, whereby those in the frequency format showed both fewer fundamental reasoning fallacies on conjunctive and disjunctive tasks, and lower levels of error, as measured by absolute distance from the normatively correct answer. The format of the tasks - whether probability or frequency - was also an effective predictor of responses to two different Bayesian tasks. Many of the findings regarding the format of the tasks were consistent with dual process theories of reasoning. There was no effect of age on reasoning performance, despite predictions that older individuals would show less analytical reasoning than the younger group. There was however an interaction effect between the format of the tasks and age group, whereby older participants' performance did not benefit from the frequency wording, indicating that they were either not primed to reason analytically, or that they were primed to do so but were unable to do so to the extent that they could obtain the normatively correct response. More surprisingly, there was no consistent relationship between thinking styles and reasoning performance. 7 parison between current results and previous literature continues to highlight the . que nature of probabilistic reasoning, and the above findings are considered as providing continued support for dual process theories of reasoning. Future research in this area may need to find more accurate ways of assessing an individual's preferred thinking styles, as well as further investigating the nature of the differences between the processes used in completing inclusive and exclusive disjunctive tasks. The measure of reasoning error developed in this current research would also benefit from greater application and further investigation of possible refinements in order to continue to increase our knowledge of how people reason with probabilities.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology
Divisions: Natural Sciences and Psychology
Date Deposited: 29 Mar 2017 09:59
Last Modified: 29 Mar 2017 09:59
URI: http://researchonline.ljmu.ac.uk/id/eprint/6111

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