17.1.11

The art of the “prossible”

‘Prosibile’ is my term for a particular interaction possibility and probability, which often emerges when attempting to explain findings from data. Interaction is perhaps a little generous, more innate mix up. It’s where a single explanation for circumstances has been reached which is quite possible but not necessarily the most probable…. improbably most possible.

Possible – capable of existing, taking place, or proving true without contravention of any natural law. (Collins)

Probable – likely to be or to happen to be but not necessarily so. (Collins)


Apparently the human brain is hard wired to seek an explanation for circumstances. A possible explanation is sufficient. Having done so it then move on to another question. Of course action and resources may well then flow from that explanation. If that’s the not the most probable explanation then that means at best inefficient use of resources, and at worst counter-productive activity.

Magic works on the same principle. Of course nothing impossible, just generally improbable solutions based on a combination of skill, technique and tools. What captures our interest is that desire to seek an explanation. And once we have come up with an explanation we can rest easy, rather the seek a range of possible explanations and evaluate the most likely.

So we continually need some ‘soft-wiring’ to give a little more rigorous focus on ‘probability’ to compensate for that hardwiring. There are of course complex cause and effect interactions at play, and it’s often the case that there are multiple explanations. Nowhere more true than trying to explain local crime trends for example, a mix of national, regional, local activity, both criminal and preventative.

So worth providing dipping a toe into the cause and effect thinking….

1. What are the influencing factors?

2. Which are positive and which are negative influencers?

3. How large or small are each of these influencers?

So before resting on that early explanation, worth a moment next time to reflect on it. Is it possible – almost certainly. But to what extent is it probable, and certainly avoid taking action on that ‘prossible’ explanation.