Library Header Image
LSE Research Online LSE Library Services

Battle in the planning office: biased experts versus normative statisticians

Boumans, Marcel (2007) Battle in the planning office: biased experts versus normative statisticians. Working papers on the nature of evidence: how well do 'facts' travel? (16/07). Department of Economic History, London School of Economics and Political Science, London, UK.

Download (202kB) | Preview


For the purposes of calculation, context is irrelevant: one is expected to strip away the “contingent” details, slot bare numbers into the equations, and perform the relevant maths. Medical doctors must know this. So why, asked just such a question about the likelihood of a diagnostic test being accurate, do two thirds of respondents get the answer wrong? These results are usually used to demonstrate the medics’ woeful comprehension of probability theory. This paper, however, argues that the results can be understood as a reminder of the importance of context to the constitution of “rationality.” Reinterpreting the results in light of “ecological rationality” – which takes account of context – reveals that the problem may not be with the respondents, but with the conception of rationality as necessarily context independent. “Facts” are statements about the world for which there is consensus, and consensus will be achieved when a statement can be accepted on rational arguments. But what kind of arguments can be considered as rational?

Item Type: Monograph (Working Paper)
Official URL:
Additional Information: © 2007 The Author
Divisions: Economic History
Subjects: Q Science > Q Science (General)
H Social Sciences > HA Statistics
Date Deposited: 04 Feb 2009 17:33
Last Modified: 15 Sep 2023 23:08
Projects: Large-Scale Technological Change
Funders:, Economic and Social Research Council

Actions (login required)

View Item View Item


Downloads per month over past year

View more statistics