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Innumeracy in the Lab and in the Wild: A Focus on Efficacy and Action with Numbers

Ellen Peters
6:30 p.m. - October 16, 2018

MAA Carriage House

1781 Church St. NW
Washington, D.C. 20036

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Abstract:
Innumeracy is rampant in the United States and has been linked with worse decision-making skills and worse outcomes in health and finances. However, objective numeracy (being good at math) is not the only important factor. Beliefs in one’s numeric abilities (i.e., subjective numeracy) should have independent effects on behavioral persistence and engagement with numeric information, with subsequent effects on outcomes, but little research exists.

In today’s talk, we’ll discuss what past studies have revealed about the importance of being objectively numerate. I’ll then present the results of recent ongoing studies concerning the additional importance of subjective numeracy. Objective and subjective numeracy capture distinct psychological constructs that support different aspects of judgment and decision processes. We can measure them or manipulate them and it appears that both numeracies have effects on decision outcomes and processes.

Biography:
Ellen Peters is Distinguished Professor of Psychology and Director of the Decision Sciences Collaborative at The Ohio State University. In her research, Dr. Peters focuses on understanding the basic building blocks of human judgment and decision making. In particular, she recently has focused on how numeric and non-numeric information are processed in decisions by individuals who differ in numeric ability (also called numeracy). She is also generally interested in issues of risk perception and risk communication in health, financial, and environmental contexts, including how to present information to facilitate its comprehension and use.

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