Koehler Response 1

From: Rowe Anna (ajr395@psy.soton.ac.uk)
Date: Fri May 15 1998 - 12:43:15 BST

   Though on its face a seemingly narrow and neutral area of cognitive
   enquiry, the base rates topic fascinates scholars across a range of
   disciplines. Perhaps this is because the ways in which general
   information is and should be used to make judgements about specific
   instances affects nearly every inquiry.

I agrre that the reason that this is an interesting and important
topic to investigate because base rates are/can/should be used to
make judgements about people and situations. In most situations of
their lives, people do things, a lot of the time on chance, taking
risks, basing their decision on chances of something happening. For
example, getting into a car every morning to go to work, people know
the statistics of the likelihood of having a car crash,
yet they get into a car everyday. Does this mean that they ignore
base rates?

   In general, there is agreement that the base rate fallacy defined as
   the phenomenon whereby people routinely and mistakenly ignore base
   rates-is untenable.

I also agree with this also. People do not ignore base rates. People
know the rates of car crashes in the population. I know when I go on
an airoplane, and get a bit nervous, I just think to myself that the
cahnces of crashing are highly unlikey and compare the risk to the
risk of driving a car. But althogh peole do not ignore base rates,
they can not necessarily all the time rely on them, as in the car
situation, otherwise it would run their lives. Base rates are
useful to have, and this is another reason why I think that people do
not ignore them. For example (I'm not quite sure if this is an
example of a base rate), although I guess I should not be admitting
this!, when it comes to exams, I work out from being told how many
questions will be on the paper, how many topics were covered in the
lecture, and going on poast papers, what the likelihood is of certain
questions coming up and revise these. Also, perhaps if people are
doing something that may affect their health, eg. not using a condom
during sex, and have been warned by peope the risk of AIDS etc. They
may go on the statistics of the population, and think it will never
happen to them and conitnue with this risky behaviour. Saying this,
the reverse may be true, and the base rate may make people think
twice about their risky actions.

   Most commentorsfeel thet improving the ecological validity of our
   base rate research is a good idea.

This is very important. Rather than researching lab situations, real
world research is vital, and thus improving the validity of research
in these real situations is also important. For example, in the
target article ithe base rate fior hypothyroidism is less than 1 in
1000 among young adult males, yet its primary symptoms are quite
common, and a doctor who disregards the base rate and relies solely
on the symptoms will overdiagnose the disease. Therefore methods
need to be devised to ensure avoidance of such situations.

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