Should we care if the loser of a tennis match may actually be the all-round winner? The Simpson’s Paradox suggests yes…

tennisballOccasionally in tennis, the loser can actually win more points than the winner. It may sound strange, but the scoring system suggests losers could have been winners, and as the so-called Simpson’s Paradox proves, it’s not just tennis where combined data can uncover a different trend that may not be apparent on face value.

Tennis legend and multiple record holder, Roger Federer, is the leading example of a winning loser. In many of the matches he lost, the winner earned less than half of the total points he scored, more than any other player in fact. Why? Perhaps in Federer’s case, his opponents are the underdogs, conserving their energy, dropping a few points so that they can win the next set and the overall match.

But it’s not just tennis where the paradox shows up. It’s also prevalent in other areas of everyday life, such as medical treatments and gender bias. As the Simpsons Paradox points out, the key is not to always take things at face value, because you may have to lose some contests, to be statistically triumphant in others.