Electronic Theses and Dissertations





Document Type

Dissertation (Access Restricted)

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy




Experimental Psychology

Committee Chair

Rick Dale

Committee Member

Michael Lupfer

Committee Member

James Murphy

Committee Member

George Relyea


An introductory course by nature means something new, something of which students have little prior knowledge. Academic life is full of introductory courses. Why is statistics any different? Like most introductory courses, statistics offers endless new terms and concepts. However, unlike other courses, statistics is presented as something with no prior basis to build on. The problem with new material is that cognitive load is inversely related to the size of the prior base of knowledge. With little prior knowledge cognitive load is high; with no prior knowledge cognitive load is excessive. This inverse relationship between cognitive load and prior knowledge base is proposed as one important part of the answer to ‘why statistics is hard to learn.’ Via a randomized experimental design, with an n = 198, statistical terms and concepts were compared in a formal and non-formal format. On response tasks, it took longer to read and write the formal definitions than the non-formal. For the mix and match across all conditions, the formal conditions were significantly outperformed by the non- formal conditions. For the short answer, again the formal conditions were significantly outperformed by the non-formal conditions. For age and gender, there was no significance found on either the mix and match or short answer.


Data is provided by the student.

Library Comment

Dissertation or thesis originally submitted to the local University of Memphis Electronic Theses & dissertation (ETD) Repository.

Available for download on Wednesday, January 01, 2025