Why can it be so hard to solve Bayesian problems? Moving from number comprehension to relational reasoning demands

Thinking and Reasoning 28 (4):605-624 (2022)
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Abstract

Over the last decades, understanding the sources of the difficulty of Bayesian problem solving has been an important research goal, with the effects of numerical format and individual numeracy being widely studied. However, the focus on the comprehension of probability numbers has overshadowed the relational reasoning demand of the Bayesian task. This is particularly the case when the statistical data are verbally described since the requested quantitative relation (posterior ratio) is misaligned with the presented ones (prior and likelihood ratios). In this regard, here I develop the proposal that research on Bayesian reasoning might improve by considering the notational alignment framework of mathematical problem-solving. Specifically, this framework can help to understand the sources of the main difficulties underlying Bayesian inferences based on verbal descriptions. In essence, the present proposal supports the general claim in math education regarding the need to foster relational comprehension to avoid misleading alignments and improve problem solving.

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