Thursday, November 15, 2007

The error of our ways

Change is hard. Psychology experts say the first of four stages of change is denial, when we refuse to think something is true (for example, evidence of marital infidelity or losing a big customer). In statistics, we call that a type I error: rejecting a hypothesis that is in fact true.

Type I errors occur in all disciplines. A drug is approved that is unsafe or ineffective and people die. A budget is voted and signed into law that doesn’t accomplish the desired goals. An experienced piano teacher is hired and the student is turned off to music forever.

Or, in the case of Pakistan, Musharraf remains in power and doesn’t hold free elections as promised, resulting in consequences ranging from loss of US support to the unchecking of terrorism to the release of secret nuclear research that will enable others to build an A-bomb.

Type I errors sure make life interesting. But there are some changes we may want to remain in denial about.

No comments: