Subjective Probability

A type of probability based on personal beliefs, judgment, or experience about the occurrence of a specific outcome in the future. The calculation of subjective probability contains no formal computations (of any formula) and reflects the opinion of a person based on his/her experience. The subjective probability differs from subject to subject and it may contain a high degree of personal biases.

This kind of probability is usually based on a person’s experience, understanding, knowledge, and intelligence and determines the probability of some specific event (situation). It is usually applied in real-life situations, especially, related to the decision in business, job interviews, promotions of the employee, awarding incentives, and daily life situations such as buying and/or selling of a product. An individual may use their expertise, opinion, past experiences, or intuition to assign the degrees of probability to a specific situation.

It is worth noting that the subjective probability is highly flexible in terms of an individual’s belief, for example, one individual may believe that the chance of occurrence of a certain event is 25%. The same person or others may have a different belief especially when they are given a specific range from which to choose, (such as 25% to 30%). This can occur even if no additional hard data is behind the change.

Events that may Alter Subjective Probability

Subjective probability is usually affected by a variety of personal beliefs and opinions (related to his caste, family, region, religion, and even relationship with people, etc.), held by an individual. It is because the subjective probability is often based on how each individual interprets the information presented to him

Disadvantages of Subjective Probability

As only personal opinions (beliefs, experiences) are involved, there may be a high degree of bias. On the other hand, one person’s opinion may differ greatly from the opinion of another person. Similarly, in subjective probability, one may fall into the trap of failing to meet complex calculations.

Subjective Probability

Examples Related to Subjective Probability

  • One may think that there is an 80% chance that your best friend will call you today because his/her car broke down yesterday and he/she will probably need a ride.
  • You think you have a 50% chance of getting a certain job you applied for as the other applicant is also qualified.
  • The probability that in the next (say) 5 hours, there will be rain is based on current weather situations, wind patterns, nearby weather, barometric pressure, etc. One can predict this based on his experience with weather and rain, and believes, in predicting the rain in the next 5 hours.
  • Suppose, a cricket tournament is going to be held between Pakistan and India. The theoretical probability of winning either the cricket team is 50%. But, in reality, it is not 50%. On the other hand (like empirical probability), the number of trial tournaments cannot be arranged to determine an experimental probability. Thus, the subjective probability will be used to find the winning team which will be based on the beliefs and experience of the investigator who is interested in finding the probability of the Pakistan cricket team as the winner. Note there will be a bias if any of the fans of a team investigates the probability of winning a team.
  • To locate petroleum, minerals, and/ or water lying under the earth, dowsers are employed to predict the likelihood of the existence of the required material. They usually adopt some non-scientific methods. In such a situation, the subject probability is used.
  • Note the decisions through subjective probability may be valid if the degree of belief of a person is unbiased about the situation and he/she arrives by some logical reasoning.

For further reading See Introduction to Probability

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