It has to do with numbers. My Humans are always talking in numbers, quoting this or that percentage and the like. The thing is, I’ve checked some of their numbers and a lot of them are just plain wrong. And some of them are irrelevant, as far as I can see. I don’t understand why they think numbers are the answer to every question they have.
Can you help me understand this?—ONE HUNDRED PER CENT PERPLEXED
DEAR ONE HUNDRED PER CENT PERPLEXED: Ah, Humans. You’ve gotta love ’em…or, at least, you’ve gotta love eighty per cent of ’em, ninety per cent of the time, with a margin of error seven times out of twenty!
Or, as I usually say, they’re lovely to look at, but I wouldn’t want to live with one!
But you do, so I will try to answer your question as simply as I can, even though, in truth, the answer is both simple and complex (much as Humans are, themselves).
The numbers you’re asking about are known as “statistics.” And if I were allowed only one word to explain Humans’ obsession with them, it would be the word, “control.” I talk about this at greater length in my book, Lovely To Look At: What Animals Should Know About Humans, but I am happy to give you a quick overview here.
You may not be familiar with this aspect of the Human psyche (as many Domestic Canines are not), but one of the driving forces of Human behaviour is the desire for control. And it is often in pursuit of said control that your Humans use these statistics.
But, how does this all work, you ask? Let me give you an example. Say, for instance, your Humans dearly want something to happen but they are afraid that it won’t happen. Instead of living with the uncertainty and waiting for the future to unfold, they turn to their numbers to comfort them. If the numbers say that it hasn’t been successfully done before, then they don’t, as they say, “get their hopes up.” But if the numbers tell them that it is likely to happen, then they allow themselves to hope. For a good example of this particular use of statistics, I refer you to coverage of Human sports events, particularly baseball.
Now, the question is, do these numbers change the outcome? Of course not! And, as you’ve said, the numbers are frequently wrong. Nevertheless, it comforts Humans to believe that they can make accurate predictions and the numbers give them the sense that they have some control.
I feel for you, having to listen to this sort of drivel on a constant basis. My advice to you, since you live with Humans, would be to tune out when they start to talk in numbers. You won’t be missing anything, I can assure you. After all, a good percentage of what they say in words is best ignored, as well.
Dear Noreen is a regular feature of The Mammalian Daily and The Mammalian Daily online. If you have a question for Noreen, please send it via Twitter at @talkswithnoreen.
For more insight into Humans, buy Noreen’s book, Lovely To Look At: What Animals Should Know About Humans