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Burns, B (2009)

Sensitivity to statistical regularities: People (largely) follow Benfordís law

pp 2872-2877 in: Proceedings of CogSci 2009, Amsterdam, The Netherlands.

ISSN/ISBN: Not available at this time. DOI: Not available at this time.



Abstract: ABSTRACT: Recent decision making research has emphasized peopleís sensitivity to statistical relationships in the environment. A little-known relationship is Benfordís law, that the first digitsof numbers representing many natural and human phenomena have a logarithmic distribution (Benford, 1938). Benfordís law is being used to help detect fraudulent financial data, butthis assumes that people will not follow Benfordís law whengenerating data. In two studies I examined whether people follow Benfordís law. In Study 1 participants were given nine questions (e.g., ďLength of the Indus river: kmĒ) chosen tohave a flat distribution of first-digits for correct answers. The generated distribution was close to Benfordís law. In Study 2 the results for generated data were replicated with newquestions, and a selection task was also given in which participants selected from nine possible answers. Selected answers were a poor fit to Benfordís law. Taken together the results suggest that Benfordís law is a product of the way people generate responses, rather than sensitivity to the relationship itself


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Reference Type: Conference Paper

Subject Area(s): Psychology, Statistics