Statistician’s Approach to Coincidences: What Are the Odds

A pseudorandomly generated bitmap IndiePhunq

Unlikeliness characterizes coincidences. A common kind of coincidence, for example, is one in which you think of a friend and that friend calls you. Your first thought might be, “What are the chances?”

In the previous post, we bumped into difficulties estimating the probability of this coincidence.

The main issue is that there are so many unique variables for each situation; it’s difficult to estimate the rate of occurrence (base rate) for each part of the coincidence. How long has it been since the friend has contacted you? How often do you think of the friend? Many more intricacies complicate the issue.

Estimating the probability of other coincidence types seems equally, if not more, difficult. Since unlikeliness characterizes coincidences, clarifying their probabilities is a necessary task in better understanding them.

View the full article Dr. Beitman’s Psychology Today blog »

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