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Evaluating data: Children�s and adults� use of data characteristics in comparing sets of data

Dr. Amy Masnick

Thursday, December 13, 2007, 12:00pm - 07:00pm

Hofstra University, Department of Psychology

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When data are encountered in everyday reasoning, most often the data interpretation 
does not require explicit calculations, but instead involves either estimation or more holistic
judgments.  Much past research has focused on the context of data, without paying direct attention
 to data characteristics children use and attend to.  I will present evidence from a series of studies 
demonstrating that children pay attention to sample size and some types of variability when drawing
conclusions from datasets.  Adults show more clear-cut evidence of using these characteristics, 
both independently and in concert.  In particular, reaction time studies demonstrate that even on 
a very short time course, adults can evaluate sets of data and use data characteristics 
(e.g., difference between means, variance) to make quick, accurate assessments of relative 
quantities.  These results suggest an estimation ability similar to that which permits rapid  
comparison of single numbers, and these rapid estimations lead to similar patterns of responding 
as when evaluating data more systematically.

Dr. Amy Masnick