25 June 2015 ~ 0 Comments

Survivorship Bias: The Color Oracle

I’ve seen a rash of this image and link being shared on Facebook, and I thought it would be an interesting example of Survivorship Bias.

Survivorship Bias is the theory that your perception is based on the viewpoints you see — the things that survive.

You Are Not So Smart discusses this using an example from World War II.  The blog post shares a story about how they were trying to make the bombers safer while flying their planes, planes would return with bullet holes in them.

Naturally, you would reinforce the areas where you see the bullet holes having penetrated the plane.

This is Survivorship Bias, your data is based solely on the planes that returned.

Instead, they decided to reinforce the areas where they did NOT see bullet holes, under the assumption that those areas were weaker – because the damage they were able to see, were on people that made it back successfully.

They were right.

This post about the “Color Oracle” will share the same principle.

You’ll notice virtually everyone who shares this on their timeline, will tell you how accurate it is.

How incredible it is that it was so correct.

You could be easily lead to believe that this is right, and even interpret your results to try and make it ‘more correct’ because you are in the belief that it is supposed to work.

The reality, beyond the fact that these are general qualities that most people can relate to, is that most people who do not see it as accurate, see it as average.  They do not share it.

The people who find themselves with a complete match, are shocked, amazed, and want to tell everyone.. wow.. it works! How amazing!

Every person I have seen share this has boasted it’s accuracy, based on that exposure it would seem as though it has a 100% Success rate.

But does it?  Who knows, really, exactly how many people it actually works with.. for me it was about 70% accurate I felt..

It could be as low as 0.0001% Accurate.. it could be so incredibly inaccurate that it’s creator is shamed from the psychological community.

But from an outside perspective, when all we see are the survivors, we can easily believe it is right 100% of the time.