The Gamblers’ Fallacy is when gamblers notice that a slot machine programmed to be random has not produced a winner in a long time.  They feel it is due to win.

Or when one sees a series of fair coin tosses that all come up heads, after 5 or 6 flips, the observer starts to believe the odds have improved for tails to come up.

In both cases, the odds have not changed.  But our perceptions fool us.  We have a bit of a mind glitch.

When a basketball player hits a number of shots in a row, the team will start feeding the “hot hand” to score more points.  But that player will regress to his norm and end up shooting the kind of percentage that he usually does.

Why do we think that?  Because we have evolved to look for patterns.  Patterns can save our lives and help us learn to find food. Patterns are also the basis of language.  Without pattern recognition we would be in trouble.

But the downside is that we often think there are patterns that do not exist – which creates some expectation biases, like the undue expectation of a tails on a coin toss, or a payout on a machine programmed to be random.

We also create biases in our minds through comparisons.  If we go to a restaurant and have a fantastic meal, then the next day go to an excellent restaurant and have a very good meal, we are likely to see the second restaurant as being poor in absolute terms, rather than as a comparison.  A teacher marks an excellent paper, then has a good paper to grade.  She may mark it lower because her expectations have risen based on the previous paper.  Important to note, these are actions that repeated.

All jobs have repetitive tasks.  But often with variable input.  Our expectations of patterns are subject to errors created by that expectation.  Your doctor seeing a flow of patients; educators reviewing applications for schools; employers looking at resumes… all these processes have each discrete review being influenced by the prior review.

So now I am wondering how to cross the border with the least problems based on how guards manage the sequences coming their way; their being deceived by patterns; offset by their ability to recognize those patterns.  Would our odds of passing through quickly be enhanced by getting into a line where the car or cars ahead of us are stopped and asked to open their trunks?

At the grocery store, does a shorter line always mean faster service?  Or should we just flip a coin?

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