Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Statistical Insights in Movies

I am watching "Death Wish" with Charles Bronson right now. About halfway through, Bronson's character is at a party, and he walks by a man and woman talking about the recent vigilantism. The man says something like: "Is it any question he's a racist? He's killing more blacks than whites!" and the woman responds: "Or for Heaven's sake! More muggers are black than white! What do you want us to do, increase the proportion of white muggers?"

This is some cleverness I don't expect you'd see in PC movie-land we have today. The killings reflect the underlying distribution of muggers. The result, while skewed in a certain direction, isn't because the agent is discriminatory. It's because the underlying distribution is composed in a certain way. Selection bias. Brilliant.

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