Beware the pushy fish eater

This article is a classic because of its humorous interest, its claims and the tale of intrigue which followed its appearance. The claims in the article can be used to write conditional probability statements, for example

Pr (ambitious male | frequent fish eating male) = .7


Pr (male more successful than others | frequent fish eating male) = .5.

As an example of sampling practice this article demonstrates a pitfall of surveys which may begin with a reasonable sample size. Following up on this article with John West and its advertising agency eventually led to obtaining the original report for the survey. The sample size was 250, half men and half women. When the data were subdivided by responses to items asking about fish eating habits (4 categories) and feelings about ambition (4 categories), the numbers in each were much smaller. In fact for males there were SIX who ate fish frequently, of whom FOUR considered themselves more ambitious than others. This is where the initial claim in the article originated. Students may like to discuss how the claim "7 in 10" arose!

There are also ethical issues which arise from reports such as this. For an advertising campaign about fish the implications are not very dangerous, but students could discuss other public concerns where using data such as used here would be considered unethical.

Where to next?

Student Questions for this article
Newspaper article
Index - Related articles
Index - Data Collection and Sampling
Index - Chance and Basic Probability
Numeracy in the News - Main Index