An excerpt  ....

The problem of ‘resulting’

We tend to judge the rightness of a decision by the outcome. This is called resulting. Take a look at the picture below.

It’s September 8, 2018. Wallabies vs the Springboks in my hometown of Brisbane. This is just moments after Australia’s Jack Maddocks made a decision to go for the try line himself, rather than passing to his mates who are visible to his left. I was in the stands watching this game. The game was in the balance and we were all on our feet screaming for Australia to get over the line. With the hope of a nation on his shoulders, was Jack’s decision to ignore the passing option a good decision or a bad one? 

Most people would say it depends on whether or not he scored the try—but does it? At the time of making the decision, he couldn’t take that into account—so did he make a good decision? Yes or no? It’s a tricky one when we can’t use resulting, isn’t it!

Statisticians have looked at this particular play and determined this was the statistically correct decision based on viewing hundreds of other games where a similar decision had to be made. Jack made the right call, with this move resulting in a try 7 out of 10 times in other games with similar contexts. This, from a statistical point of view, means Jack made the correct choice. Unfortunately for him, he was stopped short of the line, much to the dismay of the crowd who were all frustrated at his decision not to pass (myself included). With the result known, we were quite happy to pass judgment with absolute confidence that if we were in that situation, we would have passed. Even though the choice to pass in that situation feels like a different outcome would be likely, statistics tell us we should have been applauding Jack for making the best decision. The outcome should have little bearing on the rightness of the decision. In the split-second Jack had to make a choice, he made the right call and simply got unlucky with a negative result.



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