It is still uncertain how the COVID-19 pandemic will develop. The Unstatistics of the Month would like to shed some light on the current situation, at least with regard to statistical concepts. Therefore, we present none of the usual unstatistics, but instead explain essential concepts and their limits. Notwithstanding the fact that the most important factors in the forecast of the spread of COVID-19 are subject to a high degree of uncertainty, the containment of new infections must have absolute priority in the current situation. Moreover, whether the measures currently taken are effective can only be determined with a time lag. Country comparisons quickly reach their limits because case numbers and deaths are not collected according to uniform procedures. As far as statistics are concerned, the current principle is to proceed by “driving on sight” when assessing model calculations, and avoid placing too much attention to individual information.
A new paper by Harding Center member Michelle McDowell and members of the Winton Centre for Risk and Evidence Communication: People understand and remember benefits and harms of a medical treatment better in table format (fact box) than plain text. Also, have a look at this blog for a summary of the study findings.
A new drug reduces the risk of heart attacks by 40%. Shark attacks are up by a factor of two. Drinking a liter of soda per day doubles your chance of developing cancer. These are all examples of a common way risk is presented in news articles, and can often be misleading. So how can we better evaluate risk? Gerd Gigerenzer explores the difference between relative and absolute risk. [Directed by Visorama, narrated by Addison Anderson].
Communicating natural hazards: How can flood risks be presented in a transparent and understandable way?
In order to make the population more aware of impending severe weather events, the German Council of Economic Experts (Sachverständigenrat für Verbraucherfragen), an advisory body of the Federal Ministry of Justice and Consumer Protection, commissioned Mirjam Jenny (Head Research Scientist of the Harding Center) and Nadine Fleischhut (Max Planck Institute for Human Development) to prepare a scientific report on improving communication about the dangers of floods and other natural disasters. Potential hazard situations need to be presented to the population and policyholders in a transparent and easily understandable manner, in order to enable an informed decision to take out insurance.
» link to the report (in German)
"New things are often especially scary. We have gotten used to people getting sick and dying every year due to the flu, but the coronavirus is unfamiliar, so people have not experienced it yet and never had to deal with this specific uncertainty". Mirjam Jenny explains why we are afraid of the corona virus in this piece by Deutsche Welle, DW.
In the course of Gerd Gigerenzer's retirement, the time of the Harding Center at the Max Planck Institute for Human Development in Berlin ended in 2019. Thanks to further funding from David Harding and the support of the University of Potsdam, the center will be able to continue its work at the Faculty of Health Sciences from January 1, 2020.
» press release (in German)
ZEIT ONLINE shows three decision trees (fast-and-frugal trees), which were developed in our project RisikoAtlas: How can I better assess the quality of information on the web, e.g. health information, product reviews and investments?
Simple decision trees resemble hierarchically ordered checklists. You can quickly arrive at a recommendation for action based on a few central questions, each of which can be answered with yes or no.
» to the graphics (in German)