Probability

by admin on February 27, 2013

The film Zero Dark Thirty is a bonafide nail biter. It covers the extensive hunt to find Bin Laden. After I watched the movie, I couldn’t stop thinking about how the strategies pertain to tracking research participants.

A crucial part of the movie occurs in a conference room (seen in the trailer above). The main character, played by Jessica Chastain, spends years following a lead that ends at a compound in Pakistan. There is no direct proof he is in the compound. In the conference room scene, each person around the table is asked to give their own probability assessment. The limited facts cover certain details like the level of privacy, the amount of women vs. men in the house (4 vs. 3 seen), and the inner circle suspect entering the compound. The doubters in the room hover around the 60% range, while the main character states that it’s 100%.

Many times you will produce your own probability assessment on the whereabouts of a client. Let me give you an example. Here is a list of facts about a missing participant:

  • We sent a postcard to his mother’s place. The card did not bounce back.
  • The mom’s place has an unlisted telephone number.
  • A newer address for the participant resulted in a returned card.
  • The participant’s cell phone is disconnected.
  • A worker from an emergency shelter said they haven’t seen the participant for a few months.
  • The participant’s housing history (in public records) lists the mother’s place several times over the past 10 years.

Here’s the deal. I don’t know for sure if the participant is at his mother’s place. However, based on the facts, I’d say there’s a 75% chance he’s temporarily staying there. ┬áIs it possible I’m wrong? Absolutely. But when you play the percentages, the odds of finding the participant are in your favor.

Plus, you won’t need to send a Navy Seal Team to check it out!

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