Understanding Probability Statements Allows for Informed Public Policy

You are always better off when you are more informed. Understanding probability statements like”1 in 500 chance” or terms such as “possibility”, “likelihood” or a “balance of probabilities” is important for good public policy. For example, the term “on a balance of probabilities” in the court system, refers to a neutral third party, a hearing officer, judge, or adjudicator, who is determining the outcome of evidence presented to them. It means the neutral third party believes by at least fifty-one percent that what is being stated is the truth. This also means there is a forty-nine percent chance it is not the truth.

What is key here is the idea of understanding the probability statement. If there is a balance of probabilities that something is likely to occur, we are inclined towards the argument because the terminology is vague. When the terminology changes to something along the lines of “80 percent likelihood of being true” we are inclined to be persuaded. 

For there to be good policy, we all need to understand what probability statements mean or are actually stating. Do your research on the topic; become informed on the topic. By allowing yourself to understand the true depth of the topic you will allow yourself to make accurate decisions related to the topic. Should you buy life insurance? How likely is it that you will die tomorrow? 1 in 500 chance? This means there is a .2 percent chance you may die tomorrow. Or alternatively a 99.8 percent chance you will live for another day. This example portrays the notion that there are no guarantees in life. We can make educated guesses and follow trends but ultimately there will be outside factors which are completely unpredictable. The key takeaway is to think about the background of an issue, topic or situation, analyze any probability statements and verify with facts before believing everything which you read.

Published by hannahleighgregory

Hi, my name is Hannah; I have an Undergraduate Degree in Human Justice and am currently a Master's of Public Administration student.

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