Cognition and Chance: The Psychology of Probabilistic Reasoning

By Raymond S. Nickerson | Go to book overview
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CHAPTER
2

Randomness

Probability is the branch of mathematics that describes randomness.

—Moore (1990, p. 98)

The puzzle is this, if randomness is a product of ignorance, it assumes a subjective nature. How can something subjective lead to laws of chance that legislate the activities of material objects like roulette wheels and dice with such dependability?

—Davies (1988, p. 31)

Whatever your views and beliefs on randomness—and they are more likely than not untenable—no great harm will come to you.

—Kac (1983, p. 406)

T he concept of randomness is fundamental in probability theory. At one level, the concept is relatively simple and intuitively easy to grasp. The selection of a number between 1 and 10, inclusive, would be considered a random selection if it were such that every number from 1 to 10 had an equal chance of being selected. However, specification of a selection procedure that guarantees this equal-chance requirement is considerably more difficult than describing the requirement. More generally, the concept has proved to be more than a little elusive, and it remains enigmatic, despite the fact that it has proved to be very useful in many contexts.

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