Monday, August 16, 2010
In today's installment of Things That Make Me Happy (ie things that make me disproportionately happy when compared to their role in my life), I will talk about The Likelihood List.

How many of you have taken statistics in your life... and thought "there is no way this will ever be applicable in my life... ever"  Well, you are wrong.  You will need to bust out your college-level statistics skills to understand this post.  Call it likelihood ratios made less scientific and applied to real life.

Have you ever wondered what someone means when they say something is "likely", or "more likely than not".  What kind of percentages are we talking here?  Well, have no fear.  Betsy and I had the SAME question one night when out for dinner.

Let me set the stage.  We were sitting at a booth in Ruby Tuesdays.  We'd both ordered turkey burgers... but they were out of turkey burgers, which was tragic.  So we got something else.  Unimportant.  As we were sitting, waiting for our non-turkey burger dinner to arrive, one of us said something involving the phrase "more likely than not" (or something along those lines).  Which sparked a very in depth conversation about what that really meant.  So, we did what any two normal people would do in the same situation... we made a list... on a napkin... and then took a picture with our phones.  Here's the masterpiece:

In case you can't read Betsy's handwriting, I'll give you the breakdown.  The % listed is the likelihood that when you use featured phrase, the thing will or has actually happened.

Definitely: 100%
May or may not have: 99%
Most likely: 95%
Probably: 90%
More than likely: 80%
Likely: 75%
More likely than not: 65%

Why, you ask, does this make me disproportionately happy?  Because it's SO true!!!  Use it in a sentence, go ahead.  See if it's not foolproof.  Now, I'm guessing many of you may not be well versed in the phrase, "may or may not have".  That is sad for you... because it's a good phrase, and because it means you haven't hung out with me much.  Because I use it frequently.  As in, "... I may or may not have just eaten your last cookie."  Or, "I may or may not have forgotten to give you a very important message..."  We gave it a 99% chance only because there is a good chance that at some point, I will forget whether or not something really has happened... But in general, if I use that particular phrase, it's as good as fact.

So, listen to every day conversation and see if these phrases don't fit with the assigned %'s.  I think you will find they are most likely on the spot...

And you will become disproportionately happy too.


About Me

I am a Family Medicine intern at a community hospital in Indiana, navigating the new world of being a physician. I am privileged to work in a field I love, where every day is a new and unpredictable challenge.
I am not only a doctor, but also a cyclist, runner, DIYer in the making, lover of the outdoors, traveler, and human.
Human, MD is a glimpse into the world of a young doctor who is just trying to stay true to herself through the grueling whirlwind of residency.


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