August 2020 Brain Puzzler Solution

Question

If the probability of a false positive of a medical test (could be COVID-19) is 3%, what percent of people who test positive would actually have it?

Scenario 1: The disease is present in 1 person in 1000

Scenario 2: the disease is present in 1 person in 5


Answer

Scenario 1: 3.2% and Scenario 2: 89.3%

We need to compare the actual positives with the sum of the true positives and false positives.  In Scenario 1, if 1 in 1000 (.001) have it then 999 out of 1000 (.999) do not.

In Scenario 2, if 1 in 5 (.2) have it then 4 out of 5 (.8) do not.

 

Desmos False PositiveScenario 1:

comparing the true positives with the total positives  (true positive plus false positive)

approximately 3.2%.

Scenario 2:

comparing the true positives with the total positives (true positive plus false positive)

approximately 89%

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