Memory & Cognition

, Volume 40, Issue 3, pp 420-433

First online:

Statistical judgments are influenced by the implied likelihood that samples represent the same population

  • Dana L. ChesneyAffiliated withDepartment of Psychology, University of Notre Dame Email author 
  • , Natalie A. ObrechtAffiliated withDepartment of Psychology, William Paterson University Email author 


When sample information is combined, it is generally considered normative to weight information based on larger samples more heavily than information based on smaller samples. However, if samples appear likely to have been drawn from different subpopulations, it is reasonable to combine estimates of these subpopulation means (typically, the sample means) without weighting these estimates by sample size. This study investigated whether laypeople are influenced by the likelihood of samples coming from the same population when determining how to combine information. In two experiments we show that (1) implied binomial variability affected participants’ judgments of the likelihood that a sample was drawn from a given population, (2) participants' judgments were more affected by sample size when samples were implied to be drawn randomly from a general population, compared to when they were implied to be drawn from different subpopulations, and (3) people higher in numeracy gave more normative responses. We conclude that when determining how to weight and combine samples, laypeople use not only the provided data, but also information about likelihood and sampling processes that these data imply.


Judgment Reasoning Inductive reasoning Mathematical cognition Individual differences