Birthdays/biases/logic

Margaret Ball margaret at onr.com
Sun Dec 19 10:19:18 EST 2004


'Relax, Gili, I understood where you were coming from and I expect 
Dorian and most people on this list did.

That kind of thing was a hot button for me for years too, coming from a 
different background - as a math major, and coming from three 
generations of semi-pro gamblers on my mother's side of the family, it 
used to drive me CRAZY when people I knew (especially people I knew who 
really couldn't afford it) bought lottery tickets. I would argue myself 
blue in the face trying to tell them that if you're going to gamble, for 
Pete's sake don't choose a game where you have no control and the house 
has the biggest edge in recorded history.

Finally I got it. They don't buy lottery tickets because they want to 
gamble. They buy lottery tickets because they want the fantasy of 
gambling without the bother of turning their brains on.

Same thing goes for playing games with birthdays. No matter how many 
times you tell people the statistics of birthday-matching and how fast 
the probability increases the bigger the group gets, there will always 
be someone who wants to exclaim about the Amazing Coincidence. 

>The
>human tendency to look for patterns in stimuli is a crucial tendency and
>part of what makes us human - it is often very useful indeed. But our
>instincts can lead us to see patterns where it can be proven that there are
>none. Sometimes we see the patterns so strongly that no amount of reasoning
>will convince us that the patterns aren't there: just as optical illusions
>can be so strong, that they trick our eyes even when we know what's actually
>going on.
>
And sometimes it's fun to play with the perceived patterns, even if you 
know they aren't real. Hey....do you really expect people who are 
serious fans of *fantasy* to require that something be real before they 
play with it? <g>

We just don't feel like acting logical all the time. Do I think 
astrology is crap? Yes. Do I know my "sign"? Sigh......yes.

-- 
Margaret Ball
http://www.flameweaver.com

Mathematicians are like Frenchmen; whatever you say to them they translate into their own language and forthwith it is something entirely different.

                                        -Goethe


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