A comprehensive examination of preschoolers’ probabilistic reasoning abilities

AbstractHistorically, research on preschool-aged children’s probabilistic reasoning abilities has yielded mixed results. Although some findings have suggested that young children can successfully evaluate probabilities, others have suggested that they may use strategies that only approximate true probabilistic inference and therefore sometimes make errors (e.g., Girotto et al., 2016; Piaget & Inhelder, 1975). To explore the factors that affect young children’s probabilistic reasoning, we developed a battery of problems that contained features that affect the ease with which a problem is evaluated, and the types of alternative strategies that can be applied to solve them. The current experiments (total N = 124) assessed 3- and 4-year-old children’s probabilistic reasoning using an experimental paradigm tailored to this age group. Results from both experiments suggest that young children are able to engage in true probabilistic inference, as they performed well-above chance on each problem. Nuances in children’s performance are discussed, along with possibilities for future research.

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