# The Binomial Distribution

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1 Patrick Breheny February 21 Patrick Breheny University of Iowa Introduction to Biostatistics (BIOS 4120) 1 / 16

2 So far, we have discussed the probability of single events In research, however, the data we collect consists of many events (for each subject, does he/she contract polio?) We then summarize those events with a number (out of the 200,000 people who got the vaccine, how many contracted polio?) Such a number is an example of a random variable Patrick Breheny University of Iowa Introduction to Biostatistics (BIOS 4120) 2 / 16

3 Distributions In our sample, we observe a certain value of a random variable In order to assess the variability of that value, we need to know the chances that our random variable could have taken on different values depending on the true values of the population parameters This is called a distribution A distribution describes the probability that a random variable will take on a specific value or fall within a specific range of values Patrick Breheny University of Iowa Introduction to Biostatistics (BIOS 4120) 3 / 16

4 Examples Random variable Possible outcomes # of copies of a genetic mutation 0,1,2 # of children a woman will have in her lifetime 0,1,2,... # of people in a sample who contract polio 0,1,2,...,n Patrick Breheny University of Iowa Introduction to Biostatistics (BIOS 4120) 4 / 16

5 Listing the ways When trying to figure out the probability of something, it is sometimes very helpful to list all the different ways that the random process can turn out If all the ways are equally likely, then each one has probability, where n is the total number of ways 1 n Thus, the probability of the event is the number of ways it can happen divided by n Patrick Breheny University of Iowa Introduction to Biostatistics (BIOS 4120) 5 / 16

6 Genetics example For example, the possible outcomes of an individual inheriting cystic fibrosis genes are CC Cc cc cc If all these possibilities are equally likely (as they would be if the individual s parents had one copy of each version of the gene), then the probability of having one copy of each version is 2/4 Patrick Breheny University of Iowa Introduction to Biostatistics (BIOS 4120) 6 / 16

7 Coin example Another example where the outcomes are equally likely is flips of a coin Suppose we flip a coin three times; what is the probability that exactly one of the flips was heads? Possible outcomes: HHH HHT HT H HT T T HH T HT T T H T T T The probability is therefore 3/8 Patrick Breheny University of Iowa Introduction to Biostatistics (BIOS 4120) 7 / 16

8 Counting the number of ways something can happen quickly becomes a hassle (imagine listing the outcomes involved in flipping a coin 100 times) Luckily, mathematicians long ago discovered that when there are two possible outcomes that occur/don t occur n times, the number of ways of one event occurring k times is n! k!(n k)! The notation n! means to multiply n by all the positive numbers that come before it (e.g. 3! = 3 2 1) Note: 0! = 1 Patrick Breheny University of Iowa Introduction to Biostatistics (BIOS 4120) 8 / 16

9 Calculating the binomial coefficients For the coin example, we could have used the binomial coefficients instead of listing all the ways the flips could happen: 3! 1!(3 1)! = (1) = 3 Many calculators and computer programs (including R) have specific functions for calculating binomial coefficients: > choose(3,1) [1] 3 > choose(10,2) [1] 45 Patrick Breheny University of Iowa Introduction to Biostatistics (BIOS 4120) 9 / 16

10 When sequences are not equally likely Suppose we draw 3 balls, with replacement, from an urn that contains 10 balls: 2 red balls and 8 green balls What is the probability that we will draw two red balls? As before, there are three possible sequences: RRG, RGR, and GRR, but the sequences no longer have probability 1 8 Patrick Breheny University of Iowa Introduction to Biostatistics (BIOS 4120) 10 / 16

11 When sequences are not equally likely (cont d) The probability of each sequence is = = Thus, the probability of drawing two red balls is = 9.6% Patrick Breheny University of Iowa Introduction to Biostatistics (BIOS 4120) 11 / 16

12 The binomial formula This line of reasoning can be summarized in the following formula: the probability that an event will occur k times out of n is n! k!(n k)! pk (1 p) n k In this formula, n is the number of trials, p is the probability that the event will occur on any particular trial We can then use the above formula to figure out the probability that the event will occur k times Patrick Breheny University of Iowa Introduction to Biostatistics (BIOS 4120) 12 / 16

13 Example According to the CDC, 22% of the adults in the United States smoke Suppose we sample 10 people; what is the probability that 5 of them will smoke? We can use the binomial formula, with 10! 5!(10 5)!.225 (1.22) 10 5 = 3.7% There is also a shortcut formula in R for this: > dbinom(5, size=10, prob=.22) [1] Patrick Breheny University of Iowa Introduction to Biostatistics (BIOS 4120) 13 / 16

14 Example (cont d) What is the probability that our sample will contain two or fewer smokers? We can add up probabilities from the binomial distribution: Or, in R: P (X 2) = P (X = 0) + P (X = 1) + P (X = 2) = = 61.7% > dbinom(0:2, size=10, prob=.22) [1] > pbinom(2, size=10, prob=.22) [1] Patrick Breheny University of Iowa Introduction to Biostatistics (BIOS 4120) 14 / 16

15 The binomial formula when to use This formula works for any random variable that counts the number of times an event occurs out of n trials, provided that the following assumptions are met: The number of trials n must be fixed in advance The probability that the event occurs, p, must be the same from trial to trial The trials must be independent If these assumptions are met, the random variable is said to follow a binomial distribution, or to be binomially distributed Patrick Breheny University of Iowa Introduction to Biostatistics (BIOS 4120) 15 / 16

16 A random variable is a number that can equal different values depending on the outcome of a random process The distribution of a random variable describes the probability that the random variable will take on those different values The number of ways to choose k things out of n possibilities is: n! k!(n k)! (Binomial distribution) The probability that an event will occur k times out of n is n! k!(n k)! pk (1 p) n k, where p is the probability that the event will occur on any particular trial Patrick Breheny University of Iowa Introduction to Biostatistics (BIOS 4120) 16 / 16

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