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Wednesday, 10 October 2012
critical thinking no.5: the gambler's fallacy
script by mike mcrae and james hutson, recording and music by audrey studios, animated and directed by James Hutson, produced by Bridge 8, found via brainpickings
- if you watch a coin flip 9 times - it comes up heads 2 times and tails 7 times
- what is going to come up next?
- as tails has been having a good run maybe that will continue - or because of that maybe it is time for heads?
- our brains are very good at recognising patterns - sometime when they are not there
- in fact there is a 50% chance of heads or tails every time the coin is flipped - it doesn't matter what came before and luck doesn't come into it at all
- but it is hard to shake the idea that there is a pattern in there somewhere - maybe we just need to look hard enough - this is known as the gambler's fallacy (our assumption that probability changes as a result of past events)
- we are wired to see things as if they are related
- so for example - people take pills and feel better - but a lot of logic and probability is needed to determine whether the pills were truly responsible
- just because one thing follows another it does not mean they are linked - there could be other factors or it could just be coincidence
- to know for sure you have to test the circumstances again and again - to look for those other factors that could disprove the link- this reinforces confidence that your pattern is true
- our brains may see patterns - and this is often useful - but it takes science to prove that those patterns are real