Actuarial Prediction

This essay sample on Actuarial Prediction provides all necessary basic info on this matter, including the most common “for and against” arguments. Below are the introduction, body and conclusion parts of this essay.

In clinical prediction, psychologists use their clinical experience to formulate a prediction based on interview impressions, history ATA and test scores (Melee, Clinical versus Statistical 4). The “formula” in the title refers to statistical or actuarial prediction. In actuarial prediction, clergies access a chart or table which gives the statistical frequencies of behaviors (“Actuarial Prediction”).

Advocates of the clinical method say that clinical prediction Is “dynamic, meaningful and sensitive” but actuarial prediction Is “mechanical, rigid and artificial” (Melee, Clinical versus Statistical 4).

On the other hand, advocates of the actuarial method claim that actuarial method Is “empirical, precise and objective” but alnico prediction Is “unscientific, vague and subjective” (Melee, Clinical versus Statistical 4). The controversy of clinical versus actuarial judgment is not limited to the field of psychology; it also affects education in terms of predicting school performance, criminal justice system in terms of parole board decisions and business in terms of personnel selection.

Although this controversy can be traced back half a century ago, social scientists today are still asking: Which of the two methods works better? Can we view any prediction dichotomously as either clinical or actuarial? And, if actuarial predictions are more accurate, should we abandon clinical predictions all together? On one side of the controversy, some people feel that using mere numbers to determine whether students can enter graduate schools or whether prisoners should be released Is dehumidifying (Melee, “Causes and Effects” 374).

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Clinical Vs Actuarial

In her book about social psychology, Thompson describes a young woman who complains that It Is horribly unfair that she has been rejected by the Psychology Department at university of California on the bases of mere numbers, without even n interview (88). When my psychology teacher surveyed our class on this issue, about 20 percent of students believe that it is unethical to make predictions based on mere numbers (Brenner). The crux of this ethical concern lies on the belief that each individual is so unique that rigid statistics or equations cannot make the correct prediction in every single case.

Indeed, most psychologists agree that rigid statistics are not sensitive to special cases. Paul Mêlée’s well-known “broken-leg” example Illustrates how “the special powers of the clinician” can predict behaviors ore accurately in some special cases: If a sociologist were predicting whether Professor X would go to the movies on a certain night, he might have an equation Involving age, academic specialty, and Introversion score. The equation might yield [a very high probability] that Professor X will go to the movie tonight.

But if… Professor X Ana Just Darken Nils leg Ana en Is In a nil cast Tanat won’t NT In a denature seat, no sensible sociologist would stick with the equation. (Clinical versus Statistical 24-25) Essentially, it is very important for clinicians to detect the characteristics of each unique individual and make predictions accordingly because clinicians deal with individual cases; they make predictions for each unique individual, not for a group of people.

Thus, it is “the individual case that defines the clinician” (Melee, Clinical versus Statistical 25). Because of the insensitivity of statistics to special cases and the importance of predicting individual cases, many psychologists argue that statistics simply cannot apply to individuals (Melee, “Causes and Effects” 374). They believe that clinicians can make predictions about individuals can transcend the predictions bout “people in general” (Melee, “Causes and Effects” 374).

For example, Patriots emphasized in his research on personality inventory that: In [nonproductive] tests, the results of every individual examination can be interpreted only in terms of direct, descriptive, statistical data and, therefore, can never attain accuracy when applied to individuals. Statistics is a descriptive study of groups, not of individuals. (633) On the other side of controversy, advocates of the actuarial approach have questioned the logic behind the assumption that statistics do not apply to single individuals or events.

Stanchion uses a very good analogy to illustrate the fallacy behind this assumption (179). He asks us whether we want our operation done by an experienced surgeon who has a low failure probability or an inexperienced surgeon who has a high failure probability (179). Of course, any rational man will choose the experienced surgeon. However, if we believe that probabilities do not apply to the single case, we should not mind to have our operation done by the inexperienced surgeon. This question brings us to think about the role of chance in making reductions.

Stanchion noted: Reluctance to acknowledge the role of chance when trying to explain outcomes in the world can actually decrease our ability to predict real-world events… Acknowledging that our predictions will be less than 100 percent accurate can actually help us to increase our overall predictive accuracy. (175) An experiment done by Fainting and Subsidiaries (58-63) demonstrates Stanchion’s last point that we must accept error in order to reduce error. In this experiment, the participant sits in front of a red light and a blue light and is asked to predict which eight will be flashed on each trial (60).

The experimenter has programmed so that the red light will flash 70 percent of the time and the blue light 30 percent of the time (59). Participants quickly pick up the fact that the red light is flashing more, thus they predict the red light roughly 70 percent of the time and the blue light roughly 30 percent of the time (62). The problem is that they do not understand that if they give up on trying to predict correctly on every trial, they can actually be more accurate. We can demonstrate the logic of this situation through a calculation on 100 trials.

In 70 of the 100 trials, the red light will come on and the participant will be correct on about 70 percent of those 70 trials. That means, in 49 of the 70 trials (70 times . 70), the participant will correctly predict that red light will flash. In the same way, we can calculation that approximately in 9 trials (30 times . 30), the participant will correctly predict that the blue light will flash. Therefore, the participant can only predict correctly 58 percent of the time (49 percent from the red light and 9 percent from the (B).

However, IT ten participant simply gives up on getting every trial relent Ana just predicts the red light on every trial, he can predict correctly 70 percent of the time (because the red light will come on 70 percent of the time), which is 12 percent better than switching back and forth trying to get right on every trial. This is what Stanchion means by accepting error in order to reduce error. Research on this controversial issue has consistently indicated that actuarial prediction is more accurate than clinical prediction.

In Paul Mêlée’s classical book Clinical versus Statistical Prediction, he had reviewed 22 studies comparing clinical and actuarial prediction (83-126). Out of these 22 studies, twenty show that actuarial prediction is more accurate than clinical prediction. These twenty studies cover almost all the clinical prediction domain, including psychotherapy outcome, criminal recidivism, college graduation rates, parole behavior and length of psychiatric hospitalizing. A graduate student at JIBE had also done a study comparing clinical and actuarial prediction (Simmons 3).

In this study, Simmons compared the predictions made by a regression equation and by two experienced counselors on the school performance of JIBE freshmen (Simmons 3). The results again indicate the actuarial prediction using the regression equation was more accurate (Simmons 64). In addition, a recent meta-analysis using 136 studies has also confirmed that actuarial prediction is better regardless of the Judgment task, type of Judges, or Judges’ amount of experience (Grove et al. 9). Researchers found that actuarial prediction substantially outperformed clinical prediction in 45 percent of the studies whereas clinical prediction was more accurate in only 10 percent of the studies (19). Regarding the research consistently showing that actuarial prediction is more accurate , Paul Melee said, “There is no controversy in social science which shows such a large body of qualitatively diverse studies coming out so uniformly in the same direction as this one” (373-374).

Mêlée’s actuarial stance is strongly challenged by Robert R. Holt, who is also a renowned clinical psychologist. Holt criticizes that the twenty studies Melee cited in his book only focus on the final step of the prediction-making process, which is making the prediction (339). Holt rejects “the dichotomous classification of studies as clinical or statistical” because in field settings, clinicians do not simply make a prediction by evaluating the given data (338).

In field settings, before the clinician can make the prediction, he has to carefully identify the criterion he can predict and choose predictive variables he wants to use. (Holt 339-340). For example, if a counselor wants to predict the school performance of first year university dents, he first identifies the criterion he is able to predict; the criterion can be Gaps or average marks of the students, but it can also be the students’ lecture attendances.

He also has to choose which predictive variables he should use; he may use the students’ entrance grades or their scores on an aptitude test or a combination of both. Then, finally, he can make the prediction using either an equation or his own Judgment. This example shows that even if the clinician uses actuarial approach in the final step of the prediction-making process, he still plays an important role in all the preceding steps. I agree with Holt that Melee has oversimplified the distinction between clinical and statistical prediction.

I believe that we should view these two methods as falling on a continuum rather than make an all-or-none distinction. Some predictions that can be completely done on computers are more statistical toner protections, Tort wanly psychoanalysts need to collect Ana analyze data, are more clinical. I also agree with Holt that we should still value clinical judgment although it is not as accurate. Without clinical Judgment, scientists will to be able to form hypotheses and theories, and to analyze research results and data.

Like Western and Weinberg said in their article reviewing this controversial issue, “try as we might to eliminate subjectivity in science, we can never transcend the fact that the mind of scientists, clinicians or informants is the source of much of what we know’ (609). Nevertheless, when countless research findings point toward one direction, I think we should recognize that actuarial predictions are more accurate than clinical predictions (at least in the final step of the prediction-making recess). Some people think that using mere numbers to make predictions is dehumidifying.

They feel that “using an equation to forecast a person’s action is treating the individual like a white rat or an inanimate object” (Melee “Causes and Effects” 374). However, I argue that in certain cases, it is unethical to use clinical judgment when actuarial approach has shown to be accurate. For example, when a clinical psychologist makes a prediction about whether a student is going to commit suicide within a year, would it be more ethical to use the actuarial prediction that is here times more accurate than the clinical prediction (Brook et al. 03)? The answer to this question should be as obvious as the question about whether we want our operation done by an experienced or an inexperienced surgeon. By admitting that actuarial Judgment is more accurate, clinicians who engage in activities in the role of “experts” and imply that they have unique clinical knowledge of individual cases may lose prestige and income; however, the field of psychology, and society, will benefit if we understand that accepting error is reducing error.

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Actuarial Prediction. (2019, Dec 07). Retrieved from

Actuarial Prediction
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