If you had a statistics class in college, you probably know what the concept of regression to the mean is, and you might have visualized a graph with a line running diagonally across it with dots on either side.
However, today we are not talking about the statistical side of this phenomenon. We are discussing the application of regression to the mean in real life situations.
The simplest way to define regression to the mean is that it implies that everything evens out in the end. For example, a period of high performance is usually followed by low or subpar performance and vice versa. This is probably because when you have reached the highest point you can, the only way you can go is down or stagnate.
It might also be caused by the pressure to perform, or, perhaps, you relaxed when you reached the top, and better performers surpassed you. While it could still be a good performance, it is lower than the current standards.
Another example of regression to the mean in real life usually happens in sports where it is believed to be a curse called the Sports Illustrated Cover Jinx.
It occurs when a top-performing team or a player on a winning streak is featured on the cover of Sports Illustrated magazine, only to have a losing streak in the following games, either because of injuries or due to the pressure to perform better. This brings their scores back to average.
Teen Wolf and Regression to The Mean
I first heard the concept of regression to the mean applied to real life situations some years back in an episode of the TV show Teen Wolf on MTV, and it has stuck with me ever since.
After a big fight against one of the show’s most formidable villains that left the heroes side with several casualties, the main character, Scott, is hanging out with his friend and mentor, Dr. Deaton, who introduces him to the concept of regression to the mean while trying to comfort him.
Here’s their conversation;
DEATON: Have you ever heard the term "regression to the mean"?
DEATON: It's a bit of a technical way of saying things will always even out.
SCOTT: Like things will always get better?
DEATON: More like things can't always be bad.
SCOTT: So, no matter how bad things get...
DEATON: Or how good.
SCOTT: They always come back to the middle.
DEATON: Regression to the mean.
(Transcript from Teen Wolf, Season 3 Episode 24)
On Teen Wolf, Dr. Deaton uses the concept of regression to the mean to explain to Scott that even though they seemed to always be fighting an enemy, things won’t always be that way.
After this fight, they would enjoy a moment of peace and quietness for a while, but then they would have to face another villain eventually, and they would still bounce back. The phrase resonated with me and has stuck with me until now.
Regression to The Mean in Real Life
When you are going through a hard time, it can be difficult to think that there will ever be a time you won’t be in that situation. All you can dwell on is how bad the situation is, forgetting that you have had better times in the past, as well as bad times that you got through.
When things are good, however, it is easy to forget that bad times even exist and feel invincible, only for life to throw you a curveball when you least expect it, bringing you down.
The concept of regression to the mean applies in real life by showing us that any situation we find ourselves in is not permanent. The good and bad even out.
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Life Lessons from Regression to The Mean
Sometimes things have to go wrong in order to go rightSherrilyn Kenyon
One of the hard truths about life we have to accept is that life is full of ups and downs. And, according to the concept of regression to the mean, you will not always be in bad circumstances, but it won’t be smooth sailing either. Life is what happens during both times.
In the future, when we look back at our lives, we will realize that both situations are what made us who we are. After all, without bad times, there would be no good times to appreciate.
We wouldn’t recognize the good times if we have nothing to compare them to. Everything would just be the norm.
Additionally, due to the knowledge that nothing lasts forever, you learn to be grateful and enjoy the good moments as they are happening.
Knowing how regression to the mean applies in real-life situations means that you don’t relax or feel invincible when things are going well for you because you know the good things will not always be coming your way.
On the other hand, believing that things always even out can give you hope and something to hold on to when the going gets tough. You know that even when things seem bleak, the only way you can go is up. You are not here to suffer your entire life.
With the understanding of the concept of regression to the mean and its application in real life situations, you can anticipate that things will change eventually, and you will have happier times.
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The regression to the mean phenomenon is one of the things that have kept me going in the past year since the COVID-19 pandemic hit.
I believe that eventually, the scale will tip in our favor – as it has already started due to the COVID vaccine and the declining number of cases – and this moment will pass.
When it does, we will have periods of good health, abundance, and success as nature balances things out.
Do you believe in the concept of regression to the mean and its application in real life situations?
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