Searches for "chance of" in Bing

How do people think about chance in everyday life? There are many ways one might study that question, for example by searching blogs to examine casual usage of specific words or phrases. Here we show results of examining a sample of queries submitted to the search engine Bing containing the phrase "chance of" or "probability of".

Outline of procedure (details here). We manually examined about 1,000 queries, retained those where the user was seeking to discover the chance of something, and sorted these 675 retained queries into 66 groups (each containing about 10 queries) of queries on some similar topic. We present in illustrative queries by topic a representative query from each of these groups. This list is intended to display the range and frequency of topics that occur in such searches. But out of 10 queries in a group, the one that best indicates the group is often the most bland. So separately we present a narrative account and illustrative queries by style intended to illustrate the range of style of queries -- from specific to vague, from articulate to inarticulate, from impersonal to personal -- and to give an overall discussion.

Our purpose is to illustrate actual usage. Of course this is a very indirect way of approaching our underlying conceptual question "how do people think about chance in everyday life" because that question is several steps removed from our data, as follows.

Note in particular that typing "chance of ...... " into a search engine often isn't the best procedure. For instance if you are interested in the chance of rain tomorrow then it is more natural to go directly to a weather site. So in some contexts we are seeing naive or thoughtless users.