טכניון מכון טכנולוגי לישראל
הטכניון מכון טכנולוגי לישראל - בית הספר ללימודי מוסמכים  
Ph.D Thesis
Ph.D StudentLifshits Rachel
SubjectThe Rationality Debate: Applications to Statistics Education
DepartmentDepartment of Education in Science and Technology
Supervisor Professor Emeritus Uri Leron
Full Thesis text - in Hebrew Full thesis text - Hebrew Version


Abstract

Statistical theory provides norms for rational behavior in every-day activities as well as in research on decision-making under uncertainty. However, according to extensive cognitive psychological research literature, there is a gap between the expected behavior according the norms of statistical theory and the observed behavior of most people. In interpreting this gap, these researchers suggest that instead of using statistical norms, we rely on thoughts that come automatically and immediately to our mind. These thoughts are called intuitions or heuristics. However, what seems acceptable to most of us might be in contradiction with statistical thinking. Much of this research is known as the "Heuristics-and-Biases" approach.

These claims have been challenged by researchers from evolutionary psychology, who questioned the norms used in the heuristics and biases approach.  

This leads to revival of the ancient philosophical "rationality debate": Are humans rational beings or not? The cognitive psychological research literature bearing on this debate attempts to integrate the contradicting findings and their different interpretations, and in doing so, to settle the dispute between the different sides.

The research goals are to introduce to the educational community relevant developments from this literature, and to suggest ways of implementing them in statistical education. 

The research makes original contribution on theoretical and empirical levels.

On the theoretical level, a synthesis of the research literature on the rationality debate is carried out. The synthesis adds an interpretive framework for educational research. This includes the perspectives of research methodology, individual differences and the dual-process theory. Dual-process theory from cognitive psychology suggests that our mind operates in two different modes of thinking: intuitive and analytic.

On the empirical level, we demonstrate implications of the synthesis to educational research in statistics. This constitutes an attempt to replicate the research on the "illusion of linearity" in statistical thinking (Van Dooren et al, 2003). An example of "linearity" is the misconception that if the number of experiments is doubled then the probability that is attached to them is doubled too. We show that the reported linearity disappears when the experiment is conducted with different methodology. We applied the synthesis to analyze participants' reasoning to incorrect answers, thus obtaining new insights on intuitive thinking.