Humans and Estimating Probability

Abstract

We human beings have evolved with brains that have amazing capabilities for rational thought, pattern recognition, judgment, creativity, and imagination, none of which can be readily duplicated by the best computer simulations. However, there is one area, in which the human brain is sadly lacking: the ability to accurately assess probabilities and act on these assessments. The successes of lotteries, Las Vegas, and tribal casinos provide ample evidence that when it comes to estimating the odds and acting accordingly, we humans as a species are really deficient. We think that “winning streaks†are real, that slot machines are “overdue†for a jackpot, that the past pattern of random events somehow influences the odds for the next event.

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