From Group Data to Useful Probabilities: The Relevance of Actuarial Risk Assessment in Individual Instances
University of Cincinnati College of Medicine
January 13, 2014
Probabilistic inference plays a ubiquitous role in decision-making and often proceeds by applying data collected from past experiences to individual situations for which the data seem relevant. In recent years, however, many forensic mental health professionals have concluded that mathematical properties of probabilistic judgments prevent making precise, actuarially based risk estimates for individuals based on data derived from groups. This article uses a fictional scenario to illustrate how group data have an obvious application to individual decisions. The article also explains how misinterpretations of mathematical concepts and misunderstanding of the aims of risk assessment have led to mistakes about the applicability of group data to individual instances.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 22
Keywords: subjective probability, Bayesian inference, sex offender risk assessment, actuarial risk assessment
JEL Classification: C11, C13, K14working papers series
Date posted: December 28, 2013 ; Last revised: January 14, 2014
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