Simpson, Sir George, 1792?-1860, governor of the Hudson's Bay Company in Canada (1821-56), b. Scotland. In 1820 he was sent by the Hudson's Bay Company to Canada, where he took charge of the important Athabaska fur district. Appointed (1821) governor of the northern department of the company (with which the North West Company was merged that year), he became governor of the northern department of the united company and later was made governor of Rupert's Land and general superintendent of the company in North America. Simpson encouraged exploration of his vast realm; his cousin Thomas Simpson explored the arctic coast, and he himself journeyed constantly (twice crossing the continent) from one wilderness trading post to another. His famous "overland" trip (1841-42) around the world, during which he crossed Siberia to St. Petersburg, is described in his Narrative of an Overland Journey round the World (1847). Simpson was knighted in 1841. His journal (1824-25), edited by Frederick Merk, was published as Fur Trade and Empire (1931). E. E. Rich edited his Journal of Occurrences in the Athabasca Department (1938) and Part of a Dispatch … to the Hudson's Bay Company … 1829 (1947).

See biography by A. S. Morton (1944).

Simpson, George Gaylord, 1902-84, American paleontologist and zoologist, b. Chicago, Ph.D. Yale, 1926. He became assistant curator of vertebrate paleontology at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City in 1927. From fossil material gathered on trips to the W and SE United States and to Argentina, he discovered migratory and evolutionary patterns of the prehistoric fauna of the Americas. His deductions that species reached adaptive peaks and suffered accidental dispersal contributed greatly to the study of evolution. He served as professor of vertebrate paleontology at Columbia (1945-59) and at Harvard (1959-70). He received many scientific awards. His works include Tempo and Mode in Evolution (1949), The Major Features of Evolution (1953); The Geography of Evolution (1965), and Biology and Man (1969).
Simpson, Sir James Young, 1811-70, Scottish physician, M.D. Univ. of Edinburgh, 1832. He became (1839) professor of medicine and midwifery at Edinburgh. For a while he employed ether anesthesia in childbirth, but soon abandoned its use in favor of chloroform, which he introduced as an anesthetic in 1847. Eminent as an obstetrician, he was also known as an archaeologist.
Simpson, Louis, 1923-, American poet, b. Jamaica, grad. Columbia (B.S., 1948; Ph.D., 1959). He began teaching at the Univ. of California at Berkeley in 1959. Using experience—frequently drawn from his childhood in Jamaica in his earlier work and later reflecting ordinary daily life—Simpson writes finely crafted poems that are often witty, rueful, and grave. His volumes of poetry include The Arrivistes: Poems 1940-48 (1949), At the End of the Open Road (1963; Pulitzer Prize), North of Jamaica (1972), Searching for the Ox (1976), The Best Hour of the Night (1983), People Live Here: Selected Poems 1949-1983 (1984), and The Owner of the House: New Collected Poems, 1940-2001 (2003).

See study by H. Lazer, ed. (1988).

Simpson, Matthew, 1811-84, American Methodist bishop, b. Cadiz, Ohio. In 1839 he became the first president of Indiana Asbury Univ. (now DePauw Univ.). He edited (1848-52) the Western Christian Advocate and was consecrated bishop in 1852. He used his oratorical skill on behalf of the Union in the Civil War and in eulogizing his friend, Abraham Lincoln, at Lincoln's burial services in Springfield, Ill.

See E. M. Wood, The Peerless Orator (1909); R. D. Clark, The Life of Matthew Simpson (1956).

Simpson, O. J.(Orenthal James Simpson), 1947-, American football player, b. San Francisco. As a running back for the Univ. of Southern California, he won the Heisman Trophy as the best college player of 1968. The "Juice" played with the Buffalo Bills (1969-77) and San Francisco 49ers (1978-79) and rushed for 11,236 yards during his professional career. Simpson set season records (now broken) for most yards gained (2,003; 1973) and most touchdowns (23; 1975). He later became a sportscaster and actor.

In 1994 he was charged with the brutal murder of his ex-wife and her friend, but he was acquitted in 1995 after a media-saturated trial that highlighted racial tensions and divisions in American society. In 1997 a civil jury levied a huge wrongful-death award against him in a suit brought by the victims' families. Simpson was again the center of controversy in 2006 when it was revealed that a book by him, entitled If I Did It, which its publisher, Judith Regan, said she considered his confession, was to be published, and a television interview timed to coincide with the book's publication was to be aired. Public outcry led Rupert Murdoch, whose companies were to publish the book and broadcast the interview, to order the cancellation of both. In 2007 Simpson was charged with several felonies in connection with his participation in an armed robbery in a Las Vegas involving sports memorabilia that he contended had been stolen from him; he was convicted and sentenced to a minimum of nine years in prison in 2008.

Simpson, Wallis Warfield: see Windsor, Wallis Warfield, duchess of.

Simpson's paradox (or the Yule-Simpson effect) is a statistical paradox wherein the successes of groups seem reversed when the groups are combined. This result is often encountered in social and medical science statistics, and occurs when frequency data are hastily given causal interpretation; the paradox disappears when causal relations are derived systematically, through formal analysis.

Though mostly unknown to laymen, Simpson's Paradox is well known to statisticians, and is described in several introductory statistics books. Many statisticians believe that the mainstream public should be apprised of counterintuitive results such as Simpson's paradox, in particular to caution against the inference of causal relationships based on the association between two variables.

Edward H. Simpson described the phenomenon in 1951, along with Karl Pearson et al., and Udny Yule in 1903. The name Simpson's paradox was coined by Colin R. Blyth in 1972. Since Simpson did not discover this statistical paradox, some authors, instead, have used the impersonal names reversal paradox and amalgamation paradox in referring to what is now called Simpson's Paradox and the Yule-Simpson effect.


Batting averages

A common example of the paradox involves batting averages in baseball: it is possible for one player to hit for a higher batting average than another player during a given year, and to do so again during the next year, but to have a lower batting average when the two years are combined. This phenomenon, which occurs when there are large differences in the number of at-bats between years, is well-known among sports sabermetricians such as Bill James.

A real-life example is provided by Ken Ross and involves the batting average of baseball players Derek Jeter and David Justice during the years 1995 and 1996:

1995 1996 Combined
Derek Jeter 12/48 .250 183/582 .314 195/630 .310
David Justice 104/411 .253 45/140 .321 149/551 .270

In both 1995 and 1996, Justice had a higher batting average (in bold) than Jeter; however, when the two years are combined, Jeter shows a higher batting average than Justice. According to Ross, this phenomenon would be observed about once per year among the interesting baseball players. In this particular case, the paradox can still be observed if the year 1997 is also taken into account:

1995 1996 1997 Combined
Derek Jeter 12/48 .250 183/582 .314 190/654 .291 385/1284 .300
David Justice 104/411 .253 45/140 .321 163/495 .329 312/1046 .298

Kidney stone treatment

This is a real-life example from a medical study comparing the success rates of two treatments for kidney stones.

The first table shows the overall success rates and numbers of treatments for both treatments (where Treatment A includes all open procedures and Treatment B is percutaneous nephrolithotomy):

Treatment A Treatment B
78% (273/350) 83% (289/350)

This seems to show treatment B is more effective. If we include data about kidney stone size, however, the same set of treatments reveals a different answer:

Treatment A Treatment B
Small Stones Group 1
93% (81/87)
Group 2
87% (234/270)
Large Stones Group 3
73% (192/263)
Group 4
69% (55/80)
Both 78% (273/350) '''83% (289/350)

The information about stone size has reversed our conclusion about the effectiveness of each treatment. Now treatment A is seen to be more effective in both cases. In this example the lurking variable (or confounding variable) of stone size was not previously known to be important until its effects were included.

Which treatment is considered better is determined by an inequality between two ratios (successes/total). The reversal of the inequality between the ratios, which creates Simpson's paradox, happens because two effects occur together:

  1. The sizes of the groups, which are combined when the lurking variable is ignored, are very different. Doctors tend to give the severe cases (large stones) the better treatment (A), and the milder cases (small stones) the inferior treatment (B). Therefore, the totals are dominated by groups 3 and 2, and not by the two much smaller groups 1 and 4.
  2. The lurking variable has a large effect on the ratios, i.e. the success rate is more strongly influenced by the severity of the case than by the choice of treatment. Therefore, the group of patients with large stones using treatment A (group 3) does worse than the group with small stones, even if the latter used the inferior treatment B (group 2).

Berkeley sex bias case

One of the best known real life examples of Simpson's paradox occurred when the University of California, Berkeley was sued for bias against women applying to graduate school. The admission figures for fall 1973 showed that men applying were more likely than women to be admitted, and the difference was so large that it was unlikely to be due to chance.

Applicants % admitted
Men 8442 44%
Women 4321 35%

However when examining the individual departments, it was found that no department was significantly biased against women; in fact, most departments had a small bias against men.

Major Men Women
Applicants % admitted Applicants % admitted
A 825 62% 108 82%
B 560 63% 25 68%
C 325 37% 593 34%
D 417 33% 375 35%
E 191 28% 393 24%
F 272 6% 341 7%

The explanation turned out to be that women tended to apply to competitive departments with low rates of admission even among qualified applicants (such as English), while men tended to apply to less-competitive departments with high rates of admission among qualified applicants (such as engineering). The conditions under which department-specific frequency data constitute a proper defense against charges of discrimination are formulated in Pearl (2000).

2006 US school study

In July 2006, the United States Department of Education released a study documenting student performances in reading and math in different school settings. It reported that while the math and reading levels for students at grades 4 and 8 were uniformly higher in private/parochial schools than in public schools, repeating the comparisons on demographic subgroups showed much smaller differences, which were nearly equally divided in direction.

Low birth weight paradox

The low birth weight paradox is an apparently paradoxical observation relating to the birth weights and mortality of children born to tobacco smoking mothers. Traditionally, babies weighing less than a certain amount (which varies between countries) have been classified as having low birth weight. In a given population, low birth weight babies have a significantly higher mortality rate than others. However, it has been observed that low birth weight children born to smoking mothers have a lower mortality rate than the low birth weight children of non-smokers.


Suppose two people, Lisa and Bart, each edit Wikipedia articles for two weeks. In the first week, Lisa improves 60 percent of the articles she edits out of 100 articles edited, and Bart improves 90 percent of the articles he edits out of 10 articles edited. In the second week, Lisa improves just 10 percent of the articles she edits out of 10 articles edited, while Bart improves 30 percent yet out of 100 articles edited.

Week 1 Week 2 Total
Lisa 60/100 1/10 61/110
Bart 9/10 30/100 39/110

Both times, Bart improved a higher percentage of the quantity of articles compared to Lisa, while Lisa improved a higher percentage of the quality of articles. When the two tests are combined using a weighted average, overall, Lisa has improved a much higher percentage than Bart because the quality modifier had a significantly higher percentage. Therefore, like other paradoxes, it only appears to be a paradox because of incorrect assumptions, incomplete or misguided information, or a lack of understanding a particular concept.

Week 1 quantity percentage Week 2 quantity percentage Total quantity and weighted quality percentage
Lisa 60% 10% 55.5%
Bart 90% 30% 35.5%
This imagined paradox is caused when the percentage is provided but not the ratio by various media outlets. In this example, if only the 90% in the first week for Bart was provided but not the ratio (9:10), it would distort the information causing the imagined paradox. Even though Bart's percentage is higher for the first and second week, when two week's of articles is combined, overall Lisa had improved a greater proportion, 55% of the 110 total articles. Lisa's proportional total of articles improved exceeds Bart's total.

Here are some notations:

  • In the first week

* S_L(1) = 60% — Lisa improved 60% of the many articles she edited.
* S_B(1) = 90% — Bart had a 90% success rate during that time.
Success is associated with Bart.

  • In the second week

* S_L(2) = 10% — Lisa managed 10% in her busy life.
* S_B(2) = 30% — Bart achieved a 30% success rate.
Success is associated with Bart.

On both occasions Bart's edits were more successful than Lisa's. But if we combine the two sets, we see that Lisa and Bart both edited 110 articles, and:

  • S_L = begin{matrix}frac{61}{110}end{matrix} — Lisa improved 61 articles.
  • S_B = begin{matrix}frac{39}{110}end{matrix} — Bart improved only 39.
  • S_L > S_B , — Success is now associated with Lisa.

Bart is better for each set but worse overall.

The paradox stems from our healthy intuition that Bart could not possibly be a better editor on each set but worse overall. Pearl (2000) in fact proved the impossibility of such happening, where "better editor" is taken in the counterfactual sense: "Were Bart to edit all items in a set he would do better than Lisa would, on those same items." Clearly, frequency data cannot support this sense of "better editor," because it does not tell us how Bart would perform on items edited by Lisa, and vice versa. In the back of our mind, though, we assume that the articles were assigned at random to Bart and Lisa, an assumption which (for large sample) would support the counterfactual interpretation of "better editor." However, under random assignment conditions, the data given in this example is impossible, which accounts for our surprise when confronting the rate reversal.

The arithmetical basis of the paradox is uncontroversial. If S_B(1) > S_L(1) and S_B(2) > S_L(2) we feel that S_B must be greater than S_L. However if different weights are used to form the overall score for each person then this feeling may be disappointed. Here the first test is weighted begin{matrix}frac{100}{110}end{matrix} for Lisa and begin{matrix}frac{10}{110}end{matrix} for Bart while the weights are reversed on the second test.

  • S_L = begin{matrix}frac{100}{110}end{matrix}S_L(1) + begin{matrix}frac{10}{110}end{matrix}S_L(2)
  • S_B = begin{matrix}frac{10}{110}end{matrix}S_B(1) + begin{matrix}frac{100}{110}end{matrix}S_B(2)

By more extreme reweighting Lisa's overall score can be pushed up towards 60% and Bart's down towards 30%.

Lisa is a better editor on average, as her overall success rate is higher. But it is possible to have told the story in a way which would make it appear obvious that Bart is more diligent.

Simpson's paradox shows us an extreme example of the importance of including data about possible confounding variables when attempting to calculate causal relations. Precise criteria for selecting a set of "confounding variables," (i.e., variables that yield correct causal relationships if included in the analysis), is given in (Pearl, 2000) using causal graphs.

While Simpson's paradox often refers to the analysis of count tables, as shown in this example, it also occurs with continuous data: for example, if one fits separated regression lines through two sets of data, the two regression lines may show a positive trend, while a regression line fitted through all data together will show a negative trend, as shown on the picture above.

Vector interpretation

Simpson's paradox can also be illustrated using the 2-dimensional vector space. A success rate of p/q can be represented by a vector overrightarrow{A}=(q,p), with a slope of p/q. If two rates p_1/q_1 and p_2/q_2 are combined, as in the examples given above, the result can be represented by the sum of the vectors (q_1, p_1) and (q_2, p_2), which according to the parallelogram rule is the vector (q_1+q_2, p_1+p_2), with slope frac{p_1+p_2}{q_1+q_2}.

Simpson's paradox says that even if a vector overrightarrow{b_1} (in blue in the figure) has a smaller slope than another vector overrightarrow{r_1} (in red), and overrightarrow{b_2} has a smaller slope than overrightarrow{r_2}, the sum of the two vectors overrightarrow{b_1} + overrightarrow{b_2} (indicated by "+" in the figure) can still have a larger slope than the sum of the two vectors overrightarrow{r_1} + overrightarrow{r_2}, as shown in the example.


External links

For a brief history of the origins of the paradox see the entries "Simpson's Paradox and Spurious Correlation" in

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