Regression towards the mean

I came across this sentence ‘Regression towards the mean’ in the book ‘The drunkard’s walk’. It means that if something bad, unusual or extraordinary happens then it mostly followed by an average acceptable one. It mentions that people are often fooled by this phenomenon, it gives a false sense of control over situations and outcomes. People think that rebuking someone for bad behaviour results in good behaviour, but according to statistics acceptable behaviour always follows bad behaviour irrespective of getting yelled at or not.

A flight instructor’s example is given, the flight instructor thinks that yelling at a pilot making a serious mistakes makes them fly the plane better next time and praising a pilot for a good flight results in a mediocre flight next time; so the instructors resort to only yelling and no praise, but studies show that irrespective of an instructor’s reaction the behaviour of the pilots always fluctuated, a good one was followed by an average one and a bad one was also followed by an average one.


This shows that we should learn to respond to situations than react to it, if there is something not acceptable it is better to express the impact on us and leave it, than to do something to make sure the person repents for the mistake. It is a tough habit to leave as rebuking and a good behaviour following is very much a positive reinforcement, but if achieved it creates a good atmosphere to allow natural fluctuations take its course without worrying too much about it.

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