Terrible or just Unlikely?

Posted by on Nov 14, 2008 in Uncategorized | 2 Comments


Child protection big in UK news at the moment.

These terrible cases lead to a lot of head-shaking and hand-wringing and cries of something must be done.

Interesting comment this morning from an academic (details tbc) on BBC R4 who has conducted a review of 2 years or so of such cases:

1. while these cases are terrible, the level in the UK is compatible with other countries
2. contrary to the impression given by the media, such cases remains really, really rare

Interesting how without comparative data, our perception of this kind of thing can get distorted

And how we still – even with the numbers laid out so – find it shocking that unusual things do happen.

Either way you look at it, our grasp of probability is not very good.

"Something must be done",
we say…to reduce the infrequent occurrence of really infrequent events…


  1. Kyle Studstill
    November 15, 2008

    Agreed – whats salient is always perceptibly more probable, whether reality or not. Great thoughts.

  2. niko
    November 17, 2008

    could one argue that a "pair of fresh eyes" (like that of the general public) who cry out for something to be done are needed?

    Expert blindness seems like something that can cause a to nuanced outlook on a problem thus preventing people from doing something, because they know to much about the problem.

    not saying hysteria is needed all the time, but is can serve a valuable function