Ecological rationality or nested sets? Individual differences in cognitive processing predict Bayesian reasoning

  • Sirota M
  • Juanchich M
  • Hagmayer Y
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The presentation of a Bayesian inference problem in terms of natural frequencies rather than probabilities has been shown to enhance performance. The effect of individual differences in cognitive processing on Bayesian reasoning has rarely been studied, despite enabling us to test process-oriented variants of the two main accounts of the facilitative effect of natural frequencies: The ecological rationality account (ERA), which postulates an evolutionarily shaped ease of natural frequency automatic processing, and the nested sets account (NSA), which posits analytical processing of nested sets. In two experiments, we found that cognitive reflection abilities predicted normative performance equally well in tasks featuring whole and arbitrarily parsed objects (Experiment 1) and that cognitive abilities and thinking dispositions (analytical vs. intuitive) predicted performance with single-event probabilities, as well as natural frequencies (Experiment 2). Since these individual differences indicate that analytical processing improves Bayesian reasoning, our findings provide stronger support for the NSA than for the ERA.

Author-supplied keywords

  • Bayesian reasoning
  • Ecological rationality account
  • Individual differences
  • Natural frequencies
  • Nested sets account

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  • Miroslav Sirota

  • Marie Juanchich

  • York Hagmayer

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