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Lab News

14

Mar
2013

In Lab News

By Sunny

‘The probabilities of unique events’ now out in PLOS ONE

On 14, Mar 2013 | In Lab News | By Sunny

Our paper describing a new theory of how people estimate the probabilities of unique events, e.g., the probability that Hillary Clinton will run for President in 2016, has been published in PLOS ONE.

Here’s the abstract:

Many theorists argue that the probabilities of unique events, even real possibilities such as President Obama’s re-election, are meaningless. As a consequence, psychologists have seldom investigated them. We propose a new theory (implemented in a computer program) in which such estimates depend on an intuitive non-numerical system capable only of simple procedures, and a deliberative system that maps intuitions into numbers. The theory predicts that estimates of the probabilities of conjunctions should often tend to split the difference between the probabilities of the two conjuncts. We report two experiments showing that individuals commit such violations of the probability calculus, and corroborating other predictions of the theory, e.g., individuals err in the same way even when they make non-numerical verbal estimates, such as that an event is highly improbable.