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30 September 2010 @ 12:31 pm
5% or 5 out of 100 – What's the difference, really.  
Let's say for example, there are drugs considered to be effective for people who are suffering from a serious illness. To be taken only once. Although, the possibility of getting better due to that is high, there is also a 5 % probability that serious side effects may occur. Those 5% are a proportion of the total, but for what kind of predispositioned people it is high, and for what kind of predispositions it is low, is quite uncertain.
At these times, doctor A responded turned to the patients as follows.
“If taking this medicine only once, the illness will often get better, but with a probability of 5% serious side effects occur.”
Doctor B on the other hand, approached the patients in the following way.
“If taking this medicine only once, the illness will often get better, but for 5 out of 100 people serious side effects occur.”
The only difference is “with a probability of 5%” and “for 5 out of 100 people”. And Mathematically speaking and the very clear difference aside, what doctor A is saying and what doctor B is saying, is essentially the same. Of course, even if saying “for 1 out of 20 people” instead of “for 5 out of 100 people” it is the same.
And nonetheless, the number of patients who hesitate to use the medicine seems to increase generally more with the expression of doctor A.


from 'The reality of numbers? No way!' by Katô Ryôhei
published by Besuto Shinsho

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I'd also have to go with doctor B in this case. Just using the expression with the word "people" in it rather than % would make me feel more comfortable and like this doctor realizes he treats real humans and not just numbers.
 
 
feeling: disappointeddisappointed