After reading the Drunkard’s Walk I became even more aware of some of the logical fallacies that people use to support their beliefs and opinions. Last weekend I had a conversation with a few friends and I was surprised that three of them were all guilty of the gambler’s fallacy. The gambler’s fallacy is the belief that after a string of one type of result you become “due” for the other. It’s called the gambler’s fallacy because many believe that after a string of bad luck the odds start have to tip in their favor soon. In reality the previous events are completely independent of the next event. If I flip a coin the odds that it will be head is 1 chance in 2. Now suppose I have flipped 5 heads in a row already, does the coin know somehow “know” that it’s supposed to not be 1 in chance in 2 of falling heads but somehow it will be less likely? This is the most basic example, but I’ve heard highly educated people who should otherwise have a firmer grasp of statistics than the average gambler still make this same error in logic. Sometimes its with a sports player who hasn’t been performing as well as he should. Fans believe that he should be coming “due” for some good luck.
The conversation over the weekend focused around hurricanes. Many of us had gone to Florida and the gulf to help rebuild after the 2004 and 2005 seasons. They expressed the feeling that since the last few years showed less than average hurricane activity that we were “due” for a bad season. Just like the coin has no record of how the previous coin flips turned out the weather doesn’t keep track of the previous year’s hurricane counts. Now I support their position that we should be prepared to go down and assist again if those folks should need it. I just don’t agree with the logic that they used to get to that conclusion.
Corrigendum. The Week in Review for 04/30/2017 - Stroke from chiropractic. Measles in Minnesota. Fraudulent methodologies? How do your remove homeopathy from a product. Acuwhatever. And more.
42 minutes ago