Perception and identification of random events

Jiaying Zhao, Ulrike Hahn, Daniel Osherson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

32 Scopus citations


The cognition of randomness consists of perceptual and conceptual components. One might be able to discriminate random from nonrandom stimuli, yet be unable to identify which is which. In a series of experiments, we compare the ability to distinguish random from nonrandom stimuli to the accuracy with which given stimuli are identified as "random." In a further experiment, we also evaluate the encoding hypothesis according to which the tendency of a stimulus to be labeled random varies with the cognitive difficulty of encoding it (Falk & Konold, 1997). In our experiments, the ability to distinguish random from nonrandom stimuli is superior to the ability to correctly label them. Moreover, for at least 1 class of stimuli, difficulty of encoding fails to predict the probability of being labeled random, providing evidence against the encoding hypothesis.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1358-1371
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance
Issue number4
StatePublished - Aug 2014

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Behavioral Neuroscience


  • Alternation bias
  • Perception
  • Randomness
  • Texture


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