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Understanding Probability and Its Role in Decision Making

Frederic G. Snider, RPG and Michelle B. Snider, PhD

The basis for many of the decisions we make as individuals, as groups of individuals, like a family or researchers, and institutions such as corporations or the government are rooted in Probability Theory. The reason Probability Theory exists is summed up by the famous quote: “It’s tough to make predictions, especially about the future.” (According to Wikipedia, this quote is attributed to many people, including Yogi Berra, Niels Bohr, Samuel Goldwyn, Robert Storm Petersen, and Mark Twain). Some of our probability-based decisions are trivial: the weather said 40% chance of rain today so I’ll take my umbrella. Others are potentially life changing like where to invest my IRA money or when contemplating a career change. The more critical the decision, the more emotion is involved. But underlying all of our emotions is the mathematics of probability and whether we feel we can ‘beat the odds’. This course is designed for the non-mathematician to learn some of the important and interesting (that is, non-intuitive and counter-intuitive) aspects of probability theory as applied to our professional and personal lives.

This course includes a multiple choice quiz at the end, which is designed to enhance the understanding of the course materials.

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