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26th April, 2023

On (Mis)Communicating Uncertainty

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Event Details

26th April, 2023
14:00 - 15:00
EM01, University building, or online

Speaker: Prof Mandeep K.Dhami, Middlesex University


Life in an increasingly information-rich but highly uncertain world calls for an effective means of communicating uncertainty to a range of audiences.

Senders of uncertainty information prefer to express themselves using verbal probabilities (e.g., likely) rather than numeric probabilities(e.g., 75% chance).

However, words such as ‘likely’ can convey something other than uncertainty, and senders may exploit this. While verbal probabilities afford ease of expression, they can be easily misunderstood, and the potential for miscommunication is not effectively mitigated by assigning numeric probability ranges to words.

The format in which uncertainty is communicated may also differ between the sender and recipient. When making consequential decisions, recipients of uncertainty information prefer (precise) numeric probabilities.

The implications of the miscommunication of uncertainty can be disastrous.

In this talk, I will provide empirical demonstrations of how words can miscommunicate uncertainty in consequential decision domains such as climate science and intelligence analysis.

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