bayesian statistics

a somewhat controversial statistical methodology that, unlike conventional statistics, which treats population parameters as fixed (though unknown) values, treats parameters as random variables with a specified probability distribution, termed the prior (or a priori) distribution. Bayes theorem is then used to convert the probability distribution of an observable statistic (treated as a conditional probability for a given parameter value) to a conditional probability distribution of the parameter values for a given value of the observable statistic. This distribution is termed the posterior (or a posteriori) distribution because it assigns a probability to each parameter value that depends on the observed data. The controversial point is the prior distribution, which represents a subjective opinion of the experimenter as to the a priori credibility of the various parameter values; for example, in estimating the probability of the presence of a particular disease given a positive test result, the prior distribution represents the experimenter's judgment of the prevalence of the disease in the population under study.

Medical dictionary. 2011.

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