The Psychology behind a Statistical Reasoning fundamental

Suppose there is a robbery in school, and after investigation it is established that John is the culprit. Then some days later, there is again a robbery and again John is established to be the culprit. The next time a robbery happens, the first suspect would be John. Why? 

First, a result, which will then be used to explain the above phenomenon. So, for the time being, forget the original issue and just read the following result. 

Whatever data exists in the world – it was said/created by someone, somewhere, and at some time. These are the 3 inescapable properties of any data.

So, there are 2 kinds of data – CONTENT and “CLOUD around it” (META-DATA). The content is the actual matter contained in the piece of data, whereas the meta-data is the data about that piece of data’s existence – it being then, there and being created by whoever did so (the 3 inescapable properties). So, whenever you are exposed to any data, there are 2 data that you consume – the actual data and data about that data. 

Hence, there would  be 2 kinds of thinking too. Say you see something written on a wall on the road. The first type of thinking would be about the actual content of the writing – what it says. You might think of things like say, ‘why does this say so and so?’ And the second type of thinking would be pertaining to the meta-data like – why did the writer write this? why has this been written here, at this location? why has it been written now?

An example of  how powerful  this “simple” thing could  be is – say in your dorm room there is a graffiti board; people have written various things all over. A smart inference of someone who sees it  would be that ‘the stuff written near the edges of the board is the most recent’. Why? Because it would have been written when most of the space on the board got filled with the writing of the earlier writers, and people would obviously have started to write in the middle big- space-parts of the board first. This particular inference pertains to thinking about the location of the stuff written (near the edge).

2 reasons as to why the meta-data points striking us is quite elusive : 

1. Cloud data / meta-comes in along with /simultaneously with, the content-data. The content is perceived first and with greater impact. As/while any data is coming at us, we focus on the data more and primarily, than on the meta-data. Content is king !

2. Place and Time (the second and the third properties of any data i.e. the meta-data kinds) are invisible things – not conspicuous discrete objects as such, to be seen and consumed like we do the data (via the senses directly).

Now, coming back to the phenomenon of robbery, the supporting argument one generally puts is that – every parameter (in the whole scenario) in the first 2 cases is the same as is in the new 3rd case of robbery – the “whole scene” is the same on the 3rd occasion too (imagine a video of the scene). So, in the new case also, the same inference must be true. 

Well, agreed that all the parameters are the same, but except just the fact that this is a new ‘occasion / instance’ (which is the basis of the rationale that it is not logically necessary that the culprit should be John again). This parameter is a meta-data parameter – occasion/instance (hence pertains to time – see the very first line of the result write-up above)

Hence, according to the result, it is elusive to be registered like the other content-parameters. So the 2 scenarios i.e the earlier 1st and 2nd cases on one side and the 3rd case on the other, appear to be exactly the same. Hence the Psychology for same inference. 

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