Monte Carlo Fallacy

Ji Sung-joon (Park Seo-joon) climbing into a slide in 2015 Korean drama She Was Pretty

Here goes a popular mathematical joke: If you are fearful of the small risk of boarding the same plane as a bomb-crazy terrorist, make the odds even tinier by packing along a bomb in your luggage!

Known as the gambler’s fallacy or Monte Carlo fallacy, the most spectacular example of this type of flawed thinking took place in the eponymous casino in 1913, when the ball in a roulette wheel landed on black 26 times in a row, taking away millions from players believing that it was more likely to give red after each lengthy sequence of blacks. Like these players, many people tend to believe that after the same event has happened multiple times or after a single unlikely event has taken its course, the likelihoods of events of an opposite nature will rise as part of some compensatory mechanism of the universe. Yet, in reality, if each event occurs independently, such that an outcome does not alter the conditions under which the next event takes place, the probabilities of the events should remain constant, regardless of how unlikely the previous results are.

If there is any compensatory effect, it manifests by Continue reading