Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Perceiving Patterns in Performance Data

All meaning has a pattern, but not all patterns have a meaning. New research indicates that if a person is not in control of given situation, they are more likely to see patterns where none exist, see illusions and believe in conspiracy theories. In the context of computer performance analysis, the same conclusion might apply when you are looking at data collected from a system that you don't understand.

Put differently, the less you know about the system, the more inclined you are to see patterns that aren't there or that aren't meaningful. This is also one of the potential pitfalls of relying on sophisticated data-visualization tools. The more sophisticated the tools, the more likely you are to be seduced into believing that any observed patterns are meaningful. As I've said elsewhere ...

The research experiments used very grainy pictures, some of which had embedded images and others which did not.

No comments: