Thinking Probabilistically

Making predictions about future outcomes, including the risks, rewards, and consequences associated with different options.

We live in a world with incomplete, imperfect, and sometimes misleading information.

When we make decisions, we use the information available to us to make predictions about what might happen in the future. The more accurate this information is, the better our predictions can be. Thinking probabilistically empowers us to identify what factors are under our control and how to respond proactively. We learn to apply tools and strategies to deeply understand our choices, manage risks, and give ourselves the best chance of an outcome we prefer.

Understanding how to think probabilistically is one of the four K-12 Learning Domains of Decision Education.

Managing Uncertainty

Thinking probabilistically starts with identifying areas of uncertainty in our knowledge. When we develop a comfort with admitting what we do not know, it helps to broaden our perspective as we make decisions.  We learn to ask more questions, seek additional data, and evaluate our choices with a more realistic understanding of the unknown factors.  We can apply mathematical and statistical concepts to manage the available information and narrow the uncertainty in our decision-making. 

Estimating and Predicting

We can learn to manage impulsivity by thoroughly processing the impact of our decisions. Applying numeracy skills to understand the potential risks and rewards of different outcomes, and the likelihoods of their occurrence, allows us to engage in the decision process with more objectivity and evaluate our options with increased accuracy. Calculating probabilities helps us to develop a mathematical understanding of our options, and avoid overly optimistic predictions based heavily on hope or preference.

Determining and Quantifying Confidence Levels

Thinking probabilistically leads us to pursue an accurate view of the world. We understand that this is an ongoing process, and continually update our confidence based on new information. We use intervals, rather than absolutes, to gauge and express our confidence in predictions and possible decision outcomes.  

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