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Abstract

In an ongoing debate between two visions of statistical reasoning competency, ecological rationality proponents claim that pictorial representations help tap into the frequency coding mechanisms of the mind, whereas nested sets proponents argue that pictorial representations simply help one to appreciate general subset relationships. Advancing this knowledge into applied areas is hampered by this present disagreement. A series of experiments used Bayesian reasoning problems with different pictorial representations (Venn circles, iconic symbols and Venn circles with dots) to better understand influences on performance across these representation types. Results with various static and interactive presentations of pictures all indicate a consistent advantage for iconic representations. These results are more consistent with an ecological rationality view of how these pictorial representations achieve facilitation in statistical task performance and provide more specific guidance for applied uses. Copyright © 2008 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.