## Thursday, August 10, 2006

### Trial by Numbers?

Anonymous said...

_ One source of difficulty with quantification may be people's different abilities to deal with numeric data. While 20 + 20 + 20 = 60, for most contexts 20% + 20% + 20% <> 60%.

_ Some people find it hard, or even fundamentally incorrect, to articulate their mental states in terms of numbers (percentages). They simply find it hard to think in terms of numbers. I had a student in my class, a successful manager, and a very articulate communicator, who strongly expressed his inability to understand how one could say something like 'the probability that the demand for the new product will be high is 0.4'. (These were confidence factors that the students had to use in a a decision tree analysis).

Anonymous said...

_ One source of difficulty with quantification may be people's different abilities to deal with numeric data. While 20 + 20 + 20 = 60, for most contexts 20% + 20% + 20% <> 60%.

_ Some people find it hard, or even fundamentally incorrect, to articulate their mental states in terms of numbers (percentages). They simply find it hard to think in terms of numbers. I had a student in my class, a successful manager, and a very articulate communicator, who strongly expressed his inability to understand how one could say something like 'the probability that the demand for the new product will be high is 0.4'. (These were confidence factors that the students had to use in a a decision tree analysis).

Unknown said...

I think pr is quite correct in saying that many people find it hard to deal with numbers. But my guess is that most people would understand the following sort of instruction: "If you think there is more than a one in twenty chance [or "one in a hundred chance" -- choose your own poison] that you are wrong in thinking that the defendant comitted commit the crime, you must vote to acquit." But empirical studies are the best way to start to settle the question of the ability or inability of jurors to understand instructions such as the one above. Some studies of this sort have been done but I don't remember the results, and I haven't read all such studies, I'm sure.

Anonymous said...

Please remove my double comment if possible. Sorry.

Quantification is an interesting and obviously very important issue. Some cultural theories hold that quantification (as a sub-phenomenon of codification) is caused partly by rational (economic) considerations, partly by deep cultural mechanisms. (These mechanism are not fully understood.) Each culture, according to these theories, strives to articulate some areas while leaving other areas in fuzzy state- and therefore, we should expect uneven state of quantification. Quantification is also seen as a dynamic process- over time some areas get quantified, other lose their high level of codification or quantification. In legal practice, as in other areas of culture, we should see different levels of quantification. Indeed, people are given prison terms for exact units of time, not for 'reasonably long time'.