PODCAST – Probability is key to safety and decision-making. Dr. Perrodin talks about one of the most common mistakes people make with probability and how to avoid it.
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IN THE FLOW
David shares excerpts from the best-selling book, Flow, by Mihaly Csikszentmihaly. Flow is the merging of action and awareness and a prelude to understanding probability. Per Csikszentmihaly, “When all of a person’s relevant skills are needed to cope with the challenges of a situation, that person’s attention is completely absorbed by the activity.” Athletes often describe this as “being in the zone”.
David explains that being “in the flow” involves situational awareness and while it happens, recall of the time “being in the flow” is inconsistent – and we know that all memory recall degrades rapidly within just an hour of the experience. So, when people are “in the flow” they might not be able to remember events as well
DISCRETION ALLOWS ONE TO BE IN THE FLOW
Discretion, following one’s gut and tacit knowledge allow you to be in the flow. If you are consumed with worrying about scrutiny of your actions or have outside thoughts creeping into your thinking, then you’re not going to be in the flow. Think about it – Sully on the Hudson was in the flow. “The flow” works well with negotiating nonlinear events
SOMETIMES BEING IN THE ZONE ISN’T IDEAL
Dr. Perrodin points out the problem with being in “The Flow” too much is that you might end up “going” with a suboptimal option. For example, people running away from the Twin Towers and you join in with the group. You assume the group has some collective knowledge or a leader is out in front or something and you really don’t need to consider your heuristics – or options. “Being in the zone” and “going with the flow” are often described in pretty linear situations such as a dancer, actor, mountain climber, chess player, etc.
“You ask, what are the chances of that happening?” That’s a good question as understanding chance is understanding risk. Per Cornell University, the chance of a shooting at any school in American is once in 13,300 years or about .0000004% chance per school day. Probability helps us deal with the unknown.
A school shooting is a sentinel event that we assign much prioritization to it, although the probability is very low. There’s a tricky interface between probabilities and priorities and you can see that this area is strongly influenced by recent events, political influence and bias – what is important to you
PROBABILITY WORKS BEST OVER A LONG SPAN
Probability works well in determining long-term behavior, but it doesn’t work well for predicting outcomes in the short term. Let’s use a simple binary, two-options probability model. This is common and is basically Yes or No. You flip a coin 10 times. What’s the probability that 5 times it will be heads and 5 times it will be tails? You flip a coin 1000 times. What’s the probability that 500 times it will be heads and 500 times it will be tails? Each toss is 50-50, but time and trials have a smoothing effect on data. Note that there is no “learning” going on here. Your coin toss technique has no effect on the coin landing heads or tails.
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