P&V LOL #2: The more sure you are that you’re right, the more likely you are to be wrong

Last Monday we began our new series, Peter & Vickie’s Laws of Life (LOL for short), with a law about losing and gaining weight (see here).  That LOL was a corollary of a well known law of chemistry & physics and hinted at the mathematical concept of inverse proportions.

Today’s law (inspired by Greg Bover’s Quote of the Week) is an example of inverse proportions and could be stated thus: Your likelihood of being right is in inverse proportion to how sure you are about it.

Susceptibility to this law begins in childhood and blossoms in teenagers.  For example, when they say things like “Mom it’s gone; I’m positive it’s not there.  It’s nowhere in this house.  I’ll bet you a million bucks.  Somebody must have stolen it,” at which point Mom takes a quick look and finds it in 45 seconds.

Elements of the Hyperbola

Once people reach adulthood, they tend to be sure of more profound things like when the world is gonna end (the next date is next month on 12/21/12).

People who are the most sure they’re right often spew hyperbole (hype for short) to make their points — which proves this LOL, since the graph of two variables that are inversely proportional is a hyperbola.

Of course, I’m absolutely positively sure about the veracity of this law.  In fact I’ve never been more sure of anything in my entire life — except, perhaps, that Gloucester & Cape Ann have the best music scene in the entire universe as evidenced by this week’s live music lineup — see here.

I doubt the world will end on 12/21/12, but I guess, given this LOL, that I’d better not be absolutely sure.  Here’s a video of Sugarland, Matt Nathanson & Little Big Town covering the classic R.E.M. song on the last day people were sure the world would end:

4 thoughts on “P&V LOL #2: The more sure you are that you’re right, the more likely you are to be wrong

  1. Great idea for a series, I’m sure! The graph adds a wonderful authority. Are you familiar with the work of Edward Tufte? He wrote “The Visual Display of Quantitative Information” and other classics.


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