Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Half of what you see and none of what you hear

I know some people who manage to be extremely confident and certain about things, even when they are completely wrong or have no idea what they're talking about. I am not like that (at least I don't think so*). Instead I am usually full of doubt about everything.

Eric McCormack walked past me today. I was only 90% sure it was him and sat there nursing my doubts. However, a minute later I ran into him again at the elevator. A second look, plus hearing his voice, confirmed that it was he.

Not a great story perhaps, but it was interesting to have a less-than-certain celebrity sighting that was then proved correct. Does this mean my maybe-sightings of an unhappy L__ T__ and a shabbily-dressed M__ P__ were genuine also? Alas, they will never be confirmed.

(* This parenthetical remark works on more levels than I originally intended.)

5 Comments:

At 6:58 PM, September 20, 2007, Blogger Mike J. said...

Have you seen this test?

http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/3b453d90-5768-11dc-9a3a-0000779fd2ac.html

I got 8 out of 10.

 
At 10:51 PM, September 20, 2007, Blogger Richard Mason said...

That is a good test. And I only got 5 out of 10!

I suspect, though, that the typical test taker chooses intervals with a colloquial or unquantitative idea of what it means to be "90 per cent confident". For example I said above that I was "90% sure" that I recognized Eric McCormack, but without really giving much thought to the ensemble of Eric McCormack impersonators that would justify this statistic.

I wonder if Russo and Schoemaker would get different results if they stressed to the subjects that they were expected to get nine of the ten questions correct.

I guess it wouldn't work, however, to offer test-takers $20 if they can get exactly 9 out of 10 correct. Because they could choose nine of the intervals absurdly large and one absurdly small.

 
At 9:38 PM, September 25, 2007, Blogger bam said...

I find it amazing that people other than teens have the energy to keep track of celebrities. I didn't even know who Eric McCormack was even after following the link.

 
At 3:48 PM, September 26, 2007, Blogger Richard Mason said...

Keep track? His show was on for eight years. That's a fair amount of lag.

 
At 5:41 PM, October 13, 2007, Blogger the Smart Bohemian said...

I only got 2/10 on the quiz, but missed four more by 5% or less. So I don't feel all that stupid.

 

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