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Ecological RationalityIntelligence in the World$
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Peter M. Todd and Gerd Gigerenzer

Print publication date: 2012

Print ISBN-13: 9780195315448

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: May 2012

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195315448.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM OXFORD SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (oxford.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Oxford University Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in OSO for personal use. date: 28 November 2021

Why Rare Things Are Precious

Why Rare Things Are Precious

How Rarity Benefits Inference

12 Why Rare Things Are Precious
Ecological Rationality

Craig R. M. McKenzie

Valerie M. Chase

Oxford University Press

This chapter reviews evidence showing that people are remarkably sensitive to the rarity of events when making inferences about them. Indeed, people are so attuned to event rarity that their implicit assumptions about rarity guide their thinking even in laboratory tasks where experimenters have implicitly assumed that rarity would not matter. Lack of awareness of this problem has led many experimenters to misinterpret people’s adaptive responses as irrational. Indeed, focusing on data that are rare leads people to behave in a qualitatively Bayesian manner. These points are illustrated using tasks that involve assessing the covariation between variables, evaluating hypotheses after passively receiving data, and actively searching for data to test hypotheses. Participants’ sensitivity to, and assumptions about, rarity have important implications for understanding lay inference.

Keywords:   rarity, inference, Bayesian reasoning, hypothesis testing, covariation assessment, information search, rationality

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