Regression to the Mean

“Refuse to be average. Let your heart soar as high as it will.”

Aiden Wilson Tozer

TASK AT HAND: This week I’m thinking about “regressing to the mean”. You hear this a lot in sports, economics, and human performance. In statistics, regression to the mean describes that over time, extreme measurements will be closer to the average for the group (because measurements cluster about the average). In other words, outliers will tend to be closer to the average as more measurements are made.

For example, a baseball player may hit 2 home runs in one game but, over the season, they will perform closer to their overall batting average. In another example, the stock market may have a positive or negative run in the short term but, over any appreciable time frame, it will perform closer to the average lifetime behavior. Basically, “regression to the mean” describes that things tend to even out over time.

“Regression to the mean describes that things tend to even out over time.”

How can we use regression to the mean to improve our decision making and strategy?

What can we learn from this statistical phenomenon to illuminate our performance?

First, we need to identify that, on average, we are all average for most of our skills. Everyone cannot be the top 1% or 10% – statistically this is impossible. I find it a callous fallacy when we endow the belief that we can all be the best or fastest at all tasks. This is not possible because, over time, we will gravitate towards the average for that task in question.

But, this need not be a self-fulfilling prophecy because statistical regression toward the mean is not a causal phenomenon. Regression to the mean does not describe cause and effect. Instead, regression to the mean is based on random error about an average. The next bit is important: your performance is not destined to be average. Your performance can be an outlier. It can be bold and a superlative extension of the objective you are trying to achieve.

I have found that, self-awareness into how we are performing, can bring to light where “our average” lies for certain tasks and proficiencies. As we learn our “average”, we can work to incrementally improve them. Realizing that regression to the mean is not an eventuality opens the door to reflection and progress. Ultimately, it starts to differentiate our performance on tasks from ourselves as individuals. Our performance may sometimes be average, but our ability to learn from it will never just be average.


MEDICINE & MACULA: Check out one of our recent publications, Proliferative Vitreoretinopathy (PVR) Update: Current Surgical Techniques and Emerging Medical Management (Robin K Kuriakose, Kunyong Xu, Eric K Chin & David RP Almeida) published in the Journal of VitreoRetinal Diseases (April 2017).

You can find the study here.

In this detailed review, we provide an update on current surgical techniques and emerging medical management in proliferative vitreoretinopathy (PVR). PVR is the number one cause of failed retinal detachment repair and still a relatively unexplained phenomenon. We, along with Citrus Therapeutics, are working hard to find treatments for this challenging disease.


GRATIS: “The average adult laughs 15 times a day; the average child, more than 400 times.” Martha Beck


My best to you,

David Almeida

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