Study: Preschoolers' Use of Statistics

ITHACA, N.Y., Aug. 23 (UPI) — Preschoolers use statistics to figure out situations around them, U.S. researchers suggest.

Tamar Kushnir of Cornell University in Ithaca, N.Y., and colleagues conducted experiments indicating children age 18 months to age 4 use a statistical phenomenon — non-random sampling — to discern the preferences of others.

“Babies are amazing,” Kushnir says in a statement. “Babies and children are like little scientists. Mostly they learn by observing and experiencing the world. Just let them do it.”

The study, published in Psychological Science, finds children notice the items from which someone else makes a choice. For instance, children ages 3- 4 watching a puppet pick five flowers from a container infer the puppet likes blue flowers only if it there other items besides blue flowers to pick from.

Kushnir says it is amazing that the proportion of other items in the containers matter as well. If there were only a few blue flowers — 18 percent — the children more likely conclude the puppet likes blue flowers. That means, Kushnir says, the child infers the item chosen is a preferred item if it doesn’t match the proportion of items in the population — in other words, non-random sampling.

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