Day 6: ‘Information Representation: Improving Bayesian Reasoning’- Dr. Michelle McDowell, Research Scientist, Max Planck Institute of Human Development, Germany

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The major takeaway from the lecture titled “Public Understanding of risk: An educational challenge” was that easy and transparent information saves lives. The talk focused on how to represent risks so that people can understand it and make rational decisions. Statistical illiteracy is found to be a collective problem which has major health implications and is commonly observed in patients, journalists and physicians. It basically results from non-transparent framing of information due to cognitive biases, nature of doctor-patient relationship and conflict of interest. The patient’s understanding of risk is found to be low because they fail to ask questions from physicians. Statistical illiteracy can be improved with the better and transparent representation of information which can reduce relative risks. She recommends usage of frequency statements instead of single event probabilities and absolute risks instead of relative risks as it makes understanding more easy and sensible.

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