More on that influential Mr Watts and his fires

Posted by on Feb 3, 2008 in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Forest_fire pic c/o

Hat tip to Johnnie for spotting the indefatigable Dave Snowden on this subject.

Trenchant as ever…his central thrust is much the same as Derren was trying to teach us on Friday…: that our retrospective organising of data serves to distort our sense of how things work (think, for example, of the false causal connections we are prone to spotting).

Think for example of the unemployed single mum at the heart of Friday’s episode: we – and she – were trapped in her explanation of what had happened (she’d had 5 successful tips on the trot) so we felt this must be caused by something like Derren’s alleged “system”.

Whereas the truth is that there were some 8k other folk that she didn’t know about who had also had mysterious tips but 1 or more less successful ones than her. Her 5 successive successful tips were the result of sheer chance, nothing more, but that’s not how it seemed to her.


  1. Jon Howard
    February 4, 2008

    Have a read of this:
    Where Mr Brown got his idea from I would guess.

  2. Mark Earls
    February 4, 2008

    Top spot, Sherlock!
    Closer than a close thing….
    Funny how copying is ok as a principle but we don’t like it when we see it for real