Xiao-Li Meng (2011)

The Shumway Lectures: Xiao-Li Meng

Thursday April 14, 2011, 2:15pm

Mathematical Sciences Building 1147 (Colloquium Room)

Speaker: Xiao-Li Meng (Department of Statistics, Harvard University)

Title: Simpson's Paradox and its Impact on Your Life


Few paradoxes have impacted everyday life more than Simpson’s Paradox has. Yet paradoxically, Simpson’s paradox is not even a paradox in the mathematical sense. Simple arithmetic can easily show that it is possible for a surgeon to have the highest overall success rate, and yet have the lowest success rates for each type of surgeries he performed. The fact that you may feel this phenomenon counterintuitive is precisely the reason that the Simpson’s paradox has led to many erroneous conclusions and decisions that affect people’s life, particularly those from social and medical studies, where comparisons using aggregated data are routinely performed. This talk demonstrates the danger of Simpson’s paradox via a number of real-life examples, from the famous Berkeley sex bias case to measuring disparity in mental health service based on the recently released National Latino and Asian American Study (NLAAS),  and from batting averages and to a recent debate on unemployment rates (Wall Street Journal, December 2, 2009). No statistical background is required to understand this talk, but only some common sense and a desire to think deeply beyond formulas.

(This is also G-rated talk because it is a “gadgeted” seminar. Never heard of it? Well, this is your chance …)  

To see a VIDEO of this lecture, please visit:

Xiao-Li Meng, Shumway Lectures 2011

(note: Flash video player)  

Opinions and commentary are those of the speaker and do not represent the Department of Statistics or the Regents of the University of California.

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