Regression to the Mean Versus Causal Thinking

Regression to the Mean Versus Causal Thinking

Regression to the mean, the idea that there is an average outcome that can be expected and that overtime individual outliers from the average will revert back toward that average, is a boring phenomenon on its own. If you think about it in the context of driving to work and counting your red lights, you … Continue reading Regression to the Mean Versus Causal Thinking

Base Rates Joe Abittan

Base Rates

When we think about individual outcomes we usually think about independent causal structures. A car accident happened because a person was switching their Spotify playlist and accidently ran a red light. A person stole from a grocery store because they had poor moral character which came from a poor cultural upbringing. A build-up of electrical … Continue reading Base Rates

How We Chose to Measure Risk

How We Chose to Measure Risk

Risk is a tricky thing to think about, and how we chose to measure and communicate risk can make it even more challenging to comprehend. Our brains like to categorize things, and categorization is easiest when the categories are binary or represent three or fewer distinct possibilities. Once you start adding options and different possible … Continue reading How We Chose to Measure Risk

Cause and Chance

Cause and Chance

Recently I have written a lot about our mind's tendency toward causal thinking, and how this tendency can sometimes get our minds in trouble. We make associations and predictions based on limited information and we are often influenced by biases that we are not aware of. Sometimes, our brains need to shift out of our … Continue reading Cause and Chance

Statistical Artifacts

Statistical Artifacts

When we have good graphs and statistical aids, thinking statistically can feel straightforward and intuitive. Clear charts can help us tell a story, can help us visualize trends and relationships, and can help us better conceptualize risk and probability. However, understanding data is hard, especially if the way that data is collected creates statistical artifacts. … Continue reading Statistical Artifacts

Probability Judgments

Probability Judgments

Julia Marcus, an epidemiologist at Harvard Medical School, was on a recent episode of the Ezra Klein show to discuss thinking about personal risk during the COVID-19 Pandemic. Klein and Marcus talked about the ways in which the United States Government has failed to help provide people with structures for thinking about risk, and how … Continue reading Probability Judgments

Causal Versus Statistical Thinking

Causal Versus Statistical Thinking

Humans are naturally causal thinkers. We observe things happening in the world and begin to apply a causal reason to them, asking what could have led to the observation we made. We attribute intention and desire to people and things, and work out a narrative that explains why things happened the way they did.   … Continue reading Causal Versus Statistical Thinking

Detecting Simple Relationships

Detecting Simple Relationships

System 1, in Daniel Kahneman's picture of the mind, is the part of our brain that is always on. It is the automatic part of our brain that detects simple relationships in the world, makes quick assumptions and associations, and reacts to the world before we are even consciously aware of anything. It is contrasted … Continue reading Detecting Simple Relationships

Thinking Statistically

Thinking Statistically

In Thinking Fast and Slow, Daniel Kahneman personifies two modes of thought as System 1 and System 2. System 1 is fast. It takes in information, processes it rapidly, and doesn't always make us cognizant of the information we took in. It reacts to the world around us on an intuitive level, isn't good at … Continue reading Thinking Statistically