# I Bayes, Hume, lotteries and trustworty newspapers

#### haushofer

Science Advisor
Religious comments deleted throughout the thread
Dear all,

Imagine you're participating in a lottery, with a probability of 1 in 10 million to win. Then your newspaper is giving the outcomes of the lottery, and it turns out: you've won! But being a sceptic, you doubt the reliability of the newspaper. Say, historically this newspaper publishes the wrong lottery outcome 1 in every 50 of their lottery-reports (just say; it would be pretty bad!). How would you calculate the probability that you've actually won?

So, given:

$$P(\text{won}) = 10^{-7}, P(\text{article contains error}) = 0.02, P(\text{article contains no error}) = 0.98$$

what's

$$P(won | article \ contains \ no \ error)$$

? The book argues:

"Why is it reasonable to believe you've won? Because although the probability of you winning is extremely small, the probability of the newspaper giving you the correct outcome is much bigger."

Somehow, I feel a bit itchy about this argument (as about a lot of other arguments in the book) and I would be tempted to use Bayes' theorem.

I know about the well-known examples of testing for illness, where a very reliable test can still give a lot of false outcomes if the illness is a priori very rare; a particular example is e.g. an HIV-test; if a priori one out of ten thousand people is infected, and the reliability of the test is such that it gives a correct result for 99% of infected people and a correct result for 99.9% of not-infected people, then Bayes theorem gives with

$$P(infected) = \frac{1}{10000}, \ \ \ P(positive| infected) = 0.99 , \ \ \ P(negative| infected) = 0.01 \nonumber\\ P(negative | not \ infected) = 0.999 , \ \ \ P(positive | not \ infected) = 0.001$$

the outcome

$$P(infected | positive) = 0.09 = 9 \%$$

This makes sense: out of 10.000 people we expect one infected person, while the test also gives approximately 10 false positives, making the propability $P(infected | positive)$ approximately 1 on out 11. Bayes theorem indicates that $P(infected | positive)$ is proportional to $P(infected)$, and intuitively I'd say this is also true for our lottery. But then again, the lottery case is different, because every participant receives the same outcome of the newspaper. So my questions are basically:

[*] How does the illness example relate to the lottery example?
[*] What's the probability of me having actually won the lottery given the positive newspaper outcome, $P(won | article \ contains \ no \ error)$? Can I trust my newspaper given the highly improbable event of winning?
[*] What do you think about the book's argument ""It's reasonable to trust the newspaper because although the probability of you winning is extremely small, the probability of the newspaper giving you the correct outcome is much bigger." ?
[*] Can the lottery example indeed be used to motivate the existance of highly impropable events? I.e. is the probability for the occurence of highly improbable events independent of the a priori probability of these events (whatever that number may be), contrary to the illness example?

Thanks in advance!

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• maek14
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#### WWGD

Science Advisor
Gold Member
But someone has to win. The fact that it was you , I don't think makes it into one.

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#### haushofer

Science Advisor
So the mantra of "extraordinary claims need extraordinary evidence" does not really apply here, because winning a lottery is not extraordinary; we see it happening every day, probably by other people. But still I wonder how you would calculate the conditional probability of winning. Maybe I'm overlooking something very basic here.

Bayes' theorem would read

$$P(won | article \ contains \ no \ error) = \frac{P(contains \ no \ error | won) P(won)}{P(no \ error)}$$

but what's the conditional probability $P(contains \ no \ error | won)$? Is there anything sensible to say about this?

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#### Klystron

Gold Member
In the example from the book the newspaper only influences the reader's knowledge of the lottery outcome. Nothing the newspaper publishes changes the outcomes. Also, the lottery outcome and the contents of the newspaper report are not independent events.

The events "lottery was held" and "newspaper was published" are independent. The outcome of the lottery is independent of the newspaper report. The information in the newspaper report of the lottery seems highly dependent on the lottery outcome even if nobody won.

[Dale, thanks for clarifying. focus on the information probabilities.]

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#### Dale

Mentor
Imagine you're participating in a lottery, with a probability of 1 in 10 million to win. Then your newspaper is giving the outcomes of the lottery, and it turns out: you've won! But being a sceptic, you doubt the reliability of the newspaper. Say, historically this newspaper publishes the wrong lottery outcome 1 in every 50 of their lottery-reports (just say; it would be pretty bad!). How would you calculate the probability that you've actually won?
This is a pretty straightforward application of Bayes theorem. $$P(H|D)=\frac{P(D|H) P(H)}{P(D)}$$

Here H is the hypothesis “you won the lottery” and D is the data “the newspaper reports that you won”. P(H) is easy, 1 in 10 million. P(D|H) is 0.98. The final piece would be more difficult to calculate, it is the probability of the data. That would probably best be estimates as roughly the number of tickets you bought divided by the total number of tickets sold.

$$P(won | article \ contains \ no \ error) = \frac{P(contains \ no \ error | won) P(won)}{P(no \ error)}$$

but what's the conditional probability $P(contains \ no \ error | won)$? Is there anything sensible to say about this?
The evidence here is not "contains no error" it is that the news paper published that you won.

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#### haushofer

Science Advisor
This is a pretty straightforward application of Bayes theorem. $$P(H|D)=\frac{P(D|H) P(H)}{P(D)}$$

Here H is the hypothesis “you won the lottery” and D is the data “the newspaper reports that you won”. P(H) is easy, 1 in 10 million. P(D|H) is 0.98. The final piece would be more difficult to calculate, it is the probability of the data. That would probably best be estimates as roughly the number of tickets you bought divided by the total number of tickets sold.

The evidence here is not "contains no error" it is that the news paper published that you won.
Ok, so maybe this is my confusion. But if I fill in the numbers in your notation,

$$P(H|D)=\frac{P(D|H) P(H)}{P(D)} = \frac{9.8 \times 10^{-8}}{P(D)}$$, that would mean that only a ridiciously low probability of the data P(D) would make P(H|D), my trust in the newspaper, larger dan 50%. Only if $P(D) < 1.96 \times 10^{-7}$ we have that $P(H|D) > 0.5$. What does that mean?

-edit: wait, I now relate it to your statement "The final piece would be more difficult to calculate, it is the probability of the data. That would probably best be estimates as roughly the number of tickets you bought divided by the total number of tickets sold." Of course, the probability that the newspaper reports that I won is roughly the same as the probability that I actually won, because these two events are highly dependent. Is that it?

I guess I'm confused about the meaning of the evidence, comparing it to the illness-example.

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#### Dale

Mentor
Of course, the probability that the newspaper reports that I won is roughly the same as the probability that I actually won, because these two events are highly dependent
Yes. In situations like this it is often convenient to write $P(D)=P(D|H)P(H) + P(D|\neg H)P(\neg H)$. In this case $P(D|H) \approx 1 \approx P(\neg H)$ so $P(D) \approx P(H) + P(D|\neg H)$. When I wrote the above I had thought that this term would be dominated by $P(D|\neg H)$ but now I am not sure

I guess I'm confused about the meaning of the evidence, comparing it to the illness-example.
The evidence is just whatever observation should update your belief about the hypothesis. In this case, the newspaper report should update your belief.

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#### Ygggdrasil

Science Advisor
Gold Member
How does the illness example relate to the lottery example?
These examples are very different. In the HIV test example, a false positive means that the test reports that you have the illness when you do not.

In the newspaper example, the newspaper making an error does not necessarily mean that it will falsely report that you won the lottery. It may falsely report that Dale has won the lottery or that I have won the lottery when in fact we have not. The probability of the paper falsely reporting that you have won the lottery is quite small—the probability of the report being erroneous (1/50) multiplied by the probability that your name was erroneously reported out of all possible names they could erroneously report (e.g. if there are 10 million people in the pool, then the probability of a particular individual being erroneously named as the winner is 1 in 50 million versus a 1 in 10 million chance of winning). So, while the probability of an error is high, that error is very unlikely to affect you.

The only case where the probabilities of a false positive would be similar is if the number of names in the lottery pool was less than 200,000 and the chances of winning remain at 1 in 10 million (calculation of why is left as an exercise to the reader).

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• BWV

#### mfb

Mentor
We are missing a critical point from the newspaper: If they are wrong, what do they publish? A random other ticket's name out of the 10 million? Or your name in particular because the editor likes you? Or something else?
It should be clear how this influences the probability.
How would you calculate the probability that you've actually won?
This is different from what people have been calculating in the first few posts. You want $P(\text{won}|\text{newspaper publishes your name}) = \frac{P(\text{won} \& \text{newspaper publishes your name})}{P(\text{newspaper publishes your name})}$. The numerator is $P(\text{won} \& \text{newspaper publishes your name}) = 10^{-7} \cdot 0.98$ while the denominator depends on our assumption about newspaper errors: If they publish a random name then $P(\text{newspaper publishes your name}) = P(\text{newspaper publishes your name}\&\text{you won}) + P(\text{newspaper publishes your name}\&\text{you didn't win}) = 0.98 \cdot 10^{-7} + 0.02 \cdot 10^{-7} \cdot (1-10^{-7})$. If you plug in numbers then you get a roughly 98% chance that you won, in agreement with the naive expectation from the 98% accuracy.

If you assume the newspaper will always publish your name if (a) you didn't win and (b) they make an error then your estimate will look completely different, and most likely you didn't win.

Edit: Missing minus sign and a typo

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• Dale

#### BWV

This is a pretty straightforward application of Bayes theorem. $$P(H|D)=\frac{P(D|H) P(H)}{P(D)}$$

Here H is the hypothesis “you won the lottery” and D is the data “the newspaper reports that you won”. P(H) is easy, 1 in 10 million. P(D|H) is 0.98. The final piece would be more difficult to calculate, it is the probability of the data. That would probably best be estimates as roughly the number of tickets you bought divided by the total number of tickets sold.

The evidence here is not "contains no error" it is that the news paper published that you won.
But this does not work for P(D) with an unrelated probability of the newspaper reporting you as winner. Say you bought half of the possible numbers so your odds are 50% but the newspaper randomly picks one name from the population of 10 million players - Bayes returns a number > 1. You need complementary probabilities in the numerator and denominator. So the only numbers that can go in the denominator are .98, 10^-7 and their complements

the denominator, P(D) should be so the denominator is (.98)(10^-7) + (.02)(1-10^-7)? Still not sure about this part but the numbers make more sense

10^-8 / 1.96*10^-9 = 4.9 * 10^-6. So chances are you did not win the lottery if the newspaper reported you the winner. The intuition is that the odds are 10^-7 that you won vs. 2% that the newspaper is wrong - just like in all the textbook examples of 99% accurate medical tests on rare conditions

If I bought half the tickets so my lottery odds are 50%, the odds become 98%

Mentor
If they publish a random name then $P(\text{newspaper publishes your name}) = P(\text{newspaper publishes your name}|\text{you won}) + P(\text{newspaper publishes your name}|\text{you didn't win}) = 0.98 \cdot 10^{-7} + 0.02 \cdot 10^7 \cdot (1-10^{-7}). If you plug in numbers then you get a roughly 98% chance that you won With the denominator as you write it, I don't get that, I get a miniscule chance that you won, because the denominator is hugely dominated by the term$0.02 \cdot 10^7 \cdot (1 - 10^{-7})$. In other words, the newspaper reports are dominated by false positives. However, I don't see where the factor$10^7$is coming from in that term in the denominator. The chance of reporting some wrong name when you didn't win is$0.02 \cdot (1 - 10^{-7})$. But the chance of that name being yours is 1 in whatever the total number of possible names is. If we assume that is$10^7$names, i.e., the number of lottery players, then that extra factor describing the chance that the wrong name is yours should be$10^{-7}$, not$10^7$. But if we assume that the newspaper doesn't know who is actually playing the lottery and just reports a random wrong name from the entire population, the chance that the wrong name is yours would be even smaller. Either way, that would make the second term in the denominator (the one describing false positive reports of your name) much smaller than the first. #### PeterDonis Mentor chances are you did not win the lottery if the newspaper reported you the winner. The intuition is that the odds are 10^-7 that you won vs. 2% that the newspaper is wrong This logic only works if the wrong name that the newspaper reports is always yours. But of course it won't be. The simplest assumption, as in the post of @mfb that I responded to just now, is that the wrong name will be randomly selected from some population, either the population of lottery winners or the population in general. Either way, that multiplies the 2% error rate by a very small chance that the wrong name reported is yours. That is what makes it highly likely that if the newspaper reports your name as the winner, you actually did win. Notice that in the medical test examples, this extra factor describing "which wrong name is reported" is not present; a wrong test result still applies only to you, it doesn't apply to a randomly chosen member of the population that has a very small chance of being you. That's why the reported postive results of tests whose error rates are much higher than the incidence of what they are testing for are dominated by false positives. Last edited: #### BWV This logic only works if the wrong name that the newspaper reports is always yours. But of course it won't be. The simplest assumption, as in the post of @mfb that I responded to just now, is that the wrong name will be randomly selected from some population, either the population of lottery winners or the population in general. Either way, that multiplies the 2% error rate by a very small chance that the wrong name reported is yours. That is what makes it highly likely that if the newspaper reports your name as the winner, you actually did win. Notice that in the medical test examples, this extra factor describing "which wrong name is reported" is not present; a wrong test result still applies only to you, it doesn't apply to a randomly chosen member of the population that has a very small chance of being you. That's why the results of tests whose error rates are much higher than the incidence of what they are testing for are dominated by false positives. But the Bayes formula only works for with the same probabilities and their complements in the numerator and denominator so the formula only works if the odds of a false positive are (.02)(1-10^-7) (p the paper is wrong times p you did not win the lottery) which would equate to the medical test examples. If this is not applicable to the circumstances of this example then a simple application of Bayes theorem is not the right approach #### haushofer Science Advisor I'll read all comments tomorrow, have to spend quality time with the wife #### PeterDonis Mentor a simple application of Bayes theorem is not the right approach I think that's correct, the simple application of Bayes' Theorem that works for the medical test examples does not work for this example. But that doesn't mean Bayes' Theorem itself doesn't work; it just means that, heuristically, you need two applications of it instead of one, because the case where the newspaper makes an error needs extra analysis. • Klystron and BWV #### mfb Mentor @PeterDonis: I missed the minus sign of course. If the newspaper reports a random name then this part gets even smaller - unless you are called John Smith or similar. #### PeroK Science Advisor Homework Helper Gold Member 2018 Award Dear all, Imagine you're participating in a lottery, with a probability of 1 in 10 million to win. Then your newspaper is giving the outcomes of the lottery, and it turns out: you've won! But being a sceptic, you doubt the reliability of the newspaper. Say, historically this newspaper publishes the wrong lottery outcome 1 in every 50 of their lottery-reports (just say; it would be pretty bad!). How would you calculate the probability that you've actually won? So, given: $$P(\text{won}) = 10^{-7}, P(\text{article contains error}) = 0.02, P(\text{article contains no error}) = 0.98$$ what's $$P(won | article \ contains \ no \ error)$$ ? The book argues: "Why is it reasonable to believe you've won? Because although the probability of you winning is extremely small, the probability of the newspaper giving you the correct outcome is much bigger." Somehow, I feel a bit itchy about this argument (as about a lot of other arguments in the book) and I would be tempted to use Bayes' theorem. I know about the well-known examples of testing for illness, where a very reliable test can still give a lot of false outcomes if the illness is a priori very rare; a particular example is e.g. an HIV-test; if a priori one out of ten thousand people is infected, and the reliability of the test is such that it gives a correct result for 99% of infected people and a correct result for 99.9% of not-infected people, then Bayes theorem gives with $$P(infected) = \frac{1}{10000}, \ \ \ P(positive| infected) = 0.99 , \ \ \ P(negative| infected) = 0.01 \nonumber\\ P(negative | not \ infected) = 0.999 , \ \ \ P(positive | not \ infected) = 0.001$$ the outcome $$P(infected | positive) = 0.09 = 9 \%$$ This makes sense: out of 10.000 people we expect one infected person, while the test also gives approximately 10 false positives, making the propability$P(infected | positive)$approximately 1 on out 11. Bayes theorem indicates that$P(infected | positive)$is proportional to$P(infected)$, and intuitively I'd say this is also true for our lottery. But then again, the lottery case is different, because every participant receives the same outcome of the newspaper. So my questions are basically: [*] How does the illness example relate to the lottery example? [*] What's the probability of me having actually won the lottery given the positive newspaper outcome,$P(won | article \ contains \ no \ error)$? Can I trust my newspaper given the highly improbable event of winning? [*] What do you think about the book's argument ""It's reasonable to trust the newspaper because although the probability of you winning is extremely small, the probability of the newspaper giving you the correct outcome is much bigger." ? [*] Can the lottery example indeed be used to motivate the existance of highly impropable events? I.e. is the probability for the occurence of highly improbable events independent of the a priori probability of these events (whatever that number may be), contrary to the illness example? Thanks in advance! The frequency argument would be. You play the lottery 10 million times. You win once. The newspaper prints the correct winner 49/50 times. So, of all the times you don't win the newspaper prints the winning number correctly 49/50 and one time in 50 prints the wrong number, which has 1 chance in 10 million each of being your number. So, of all the times the newspaper prints your number, 49 times you have really won and 1 time you have not. So, it's approx 49/50 that you've won if the newspaper prints it. Not surprisingly. • CWatters and BWV #### Dale Mentor the denominator, P(D) should be That is the same thing. My D is your B and my H is your A. The denominator is just another way to write P(B)=P(D) #### StoneTemplePython Science Advisor Gold Member The frequency argument would be. You play the lottery 10 million times. You win once. The newspaper prints the correct winner 49/50 times. So, of all the times you don't win the newspaper prints the winning number correctly 49/50 and one time in 50 prints the wrong number, which has 1 chance in 10 million each of being your number. So, of all the times the newspaper prints your number, 49 times you have really won and 1 time you have not. So, it's approx 49/50 that you've won if the newspaper prints it. Not surprisingly. You may have something else in mind, but if you are trying to make this into a natural frequency case (ref e.g. Bayesian Knight sir David Spiegelhalter as this is a recommended way of messaging Bayesian stuff to the general public) then this needs some work. Out of the (10MM -1) draws you lose on, the newspaper will print approximately$199,999 \lt \big(1 - \frac{49}{50}\big)\cdot (10,000,000-1) =199999.98\lt 200,000$wrong names. On the one time you win, your name correctly shows up$\frac{49}{50}\cdot 1 = 0.98 \lt 1$times. The result then is$\frac{\text{your frequency of winning and name showing}}{\text{total times name shown}} = \frac{0.98}{\alpha \cdot 199999.98 + 0.98} \lt \frac{1}{\alpha \cdot 200,000+ 1}$where$\alpha \in (0,1]$and is the corrective factor (conditional probability) that maps from erroneous name in general to erroneously showing your name in particular. As pointed out by others, this is missing from the book, and in case of binary testing e.g. for HIV then$\alpha = 1$Last edited: • haushofer #### Dale Mentor There is a slightly easier form of Bayes theorem in terms of odds. O(H:\neg H | D)=\frac{P(D|H)}{P(D|\neg H)}O(H:\neg H) Where again D is the data “the newspaper says I won” and H is the hypothesis “I won”.$P(D|H)$is pretty straightforward (0.98) but$P(D|\neg H)$depends on how numbers are chosen in the mistakes. Last edited: #### PeroK Science Advisor Homework Helper Gold Member 2018 Award Here's a simpler approach. Over 50 days the paper prints the winning ticket. On 49 of those days it is the correct ticket number. On one day it is the wrong number. If you get those 50 people who bought those tickets together then 49 of them are lottery winners and one is not. Therefore, if the paper prints your ticker number there is a 49/50 chance you have actually won. It's as simple as that. If it's not 49/50 then the statement that the paper prints the correct winning ticket 49 out of 50 days is wrong. • Klystron and Dale #### StoneTemplePython Science Advisor Gold Member Here's a simpler approach. Over 50 days the paper prints the winning ticket. On 49 of those days it is the correct ticket number. On one day it is the wrong number. If you get those 50 people who bought those tickets together then 49 of them are lottery winners and one is not. Therefore, if the paper prints your ticker number there is a 49/50 chance you have actually won. It's as simple as that. If it's not 49/50 then the statement that the paper prints the correct winning ticket 49 out of 50 days is wrong. This is tantalizingly close to Inspection Paradox, where you are estimating things by 'polling' people who (think) they've won instead of 'polling' the newspaper entries that indicate you've won. Classic results from Inspection Paradox -- e.g. by polling riders (not buses/ bus drivers), you'd discover that on average a bus is in fact more crowded than it is on average. Importance Sampling is a valid and powerful technique, but it is also subtle. But yes, this holds so long as the other winners are chosen uniformly at random amongst the other tickets (i.e.$\alpha = \frac{1}{10,000,000 -1}$-- I infer these are 7 digit lottery tickets with$10^7 = 10,000,000$possibilities).$\frac{\text{your frequency of winning and name showing}}{\text{total times name shown}} = \frac{0.98}{\alpha \cdot 199999.98 + 0.98} = \frac{\frac{49}{50}}{\alpha \cdot \frac{1}{50}(10,000,000-1) + \frac{49}{50}} \to \frac{\frac{49}{50}}{\frac{1}{10,000,000-1} \cdot \frac{1}{50}(10,000,000-1) + \frac{49}{50}} = \frac{49}{50}$- - - - (the difference with the HIV test case, again is: in that case$\alpha = 1$but$\alpha$does not 'cancel' the large number of false positives shown here as$\frac{1}{50}(10,000,000-1)$) - - - - It could very well be that the the newspaper erroneously prints things from last months horoscope which is where you get your 'lucky' lottery ticket numbers, in which case this assumption for$\alpha$, and the stated result, doesn't hold. Last edited: • Klystron #### StoneTemplePython Science Advisor Gold Member I pressed the 'like button' to the response saying "gimme a probability!" only to discover the post was deleted! • PeroK #### PeroK Science Advisor Homework Helper Gold Member 2018 Award But yes, this holds so long as the other winners are chosen uniformly at random ... It could very well be that the the newspaper erroneously prints things from last months horoscope which is where you get your 'lucky' lottery ticket numbers, in which case this assumption for$\alpha##, and the stated result, doesn't hold.
Okay, but we're solving a problem based on common assumptions about a lottery. If the lottery is fixed so only the King's relatives ever win, then you still have no chance even if the newspaper prints your number. It's bound to be just a mistake. But that's hardly the point.

#### PeroK

Science Advisor
Homework Helper
Gold Member
2018 Award
I pressed the 'like button' to the response saying "gimme a probability!" only to discover the post was deleted!
I realised you had given me a probability!

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