kitchen table math, the sequel: the number lines: linear vs log

Saturday, August 20, 2011

the number lines: linear vs log

Andrew Gelman:
Among households with dangerous wells (arsenic content higher than 50 (in some units)), we predicted whether a household switches wells, given two predictors:
- distance to the nearest safe well;
- arsenic level of their existing well.
The data were consistent with the model that people weight “distance to nearest safe well” linearly but weight “arsenic level” on the log scale. As we discuss in our book, this makes psychological sense: distance is something you perceive directly and linearly, by walking (it takes twice as much time and effort to walk 200m as to walk 100m), whereas arsenic level is just a number and, as such, going from 50 to 100 seems about the same, psychologically, as going from 100 to 200 or 200 to 400–even though, in reality, that last jump is four times as bad as the first (arsenic being a cumulative poison).

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