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verus Random chance February 10, 2007

Posted by Sharath Rao in science, videos, weird.

Before you go on, spot the odd thing in the picture ?

The next time someone tells you she/he has the power to do something exceptionally well, something that defies common observation and knowledge, be skeptical. Ask yourself what do you expect by mere random chance. To explain what I mean, here is something from my comment to the previous post :

You have to count misses as well, not just hits. Not just when you get it right, but also how often you get it wrong. That is the most important thing.

For eg : Lets say you play you the sound of a car passing by and ask me to guess what color of the car is. Now the sound of a car doesnt possibly depend on its color – we know this from common experience. But lets say I assert that I have a certain supernatural power that enables me to tell the color from the sound. And lets say after a round of guessing 100 sounds, I get it right 50 times. Now if the cars come in only 2 possible colors – red and green ( equally likely) – anyone with no power can get it right 50 times because that is what you expect by chance !! In the worst case, I can just keep saying “Red..red..red” and I will still be right about 50 times.

So unless someone can get it right say 75-80% of the times consistently, I will not consider it as a significant result.

And this I think is one of the most critical things missing from scientific curriculum – how to design experiments, measure variables and handle experimental evidence to arrive at a conclusion or to accept/dispute an existing conclusion. And a society that does not teach this fails to a large extent in instilling any critical reasoning in students. Look here for a video of how specialist doctors make catastrophic mistakes because they aren’t taught to reason about experimental data.

Videos on paranormal stuff here, here and here. And check this out for regular dose of reality check.



1. yhac - February 10, 2007

I believe this is also called Confirmation bias

2. raosharath - February 10, 2007

Yeah rite !!

And thanks for the comment, Yhac. ( first timer ?)

3. yhac - February 11, 2007

yes 🙂

4. raosharath - February 11, 2007

Okay…you see it wasnt obvious…could have been a pseudonym 🙂

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