Instances of usage of the word "likelihood"

In what contexts do "ordinary people" think of chance? One way to study this question is by searching online writing. The project references to chance in blogs searched on several phrases like "one in a million chance" in blogs written by individuals, and produced instances of everyday life and casual thoughts. The present project sought somewhat more thoughtful instances in the context of current affairs and society. After some experimentation, the most useful word we found to search on was "likelihood". Here are two lists. The ordering of items is mine, but there has been no subjective selection of items. Other details of collection at end.

Usage of the word "likelihood" in The Economist

Details. This is the complete list found by their web search for the period March 25 - June 25, 2009. There are 14 items.

Usage of the word "likelihood" in blog article titles

Details. Collected late June 2009. Some of these blogs are "semi-pro" -- an individual seeking to be viewed as an authority, and therefore putting in some more thought than a casual blogger. Others are more professional, or more casual, or run by some interest group. Note the quotes are from titles, not text. Excluded were
  1. De facto advertisements;
  2. "Likelihood" used in the technical meaning from mathematical statistics;
  3. The legal phrase "likelihood of confusion" in trademark law.
There are 33 items.


Semantics. "Likelihood" can just mean "probability"; alternatively, because "likely" carries the connotation of "probability greater than 50%", the word "likelihood" can carry the same connotation. However the latter is surprisingly rare in our instances (1/14 and 3/33).

Which topics came up? Readers familiar with The Economist will recognize these topics as the kind of topics that the magazine usually discusses. So in that sense, the first list doesn't help us with understanding contexts in which people think of chance. The second list is more interesting in that the topics are a priori unrestricted, and so one can compare these topics with our own (or anyone else's) list of perceived instances of chance.

Comparing examples with philosophical discussion. Recall my general thesis is that philosophical discussions illustrated by iconic examples are barely relevant to typical real-world instances of chance. (xxx cross-ref discussion elsewhere).

Here is one of the more reasonable philosophical discussions, from Understanding Uncertainty.
One of the curious features of probability is that in everyday speech it is used in two rather different circumstances: first, when there is some essential randomness, and second, when our uncertainty is due to lack of knowledge. .......... Probabilities that we face in everyday life are often combinations of the two types of probability, depending on the circumstances and individual interpretation. Consider the following questions and try to decide whether the uncertainty in each situation is aleatoric (essential randomness) or epistemic (due to our insufficient knowledge of the situation) , or possibly a combination of the two.

xxx continue: relate to phil discussion of Bayesian/frequentist. xxx hard to distinguish "single events" from "statistical averages"