Posted in Science & Nature

Monty Hall Problem

Imagine that you are on a game show and you are given the choice of three doors, where you will win what is behind the chosen door. Behind one door is a car; behind the others are goats, which you do not want. The car and the goats were placed randomly behind the doors before the show.

The rules of the game show are as follows: 

  • After you have chosen a door, the door remains closed for the time being. 
  • The game show host, Monty Hall, who knows what is behind the doors, opens one of the two remaining doors and the door he opens must have a goat behind it. 
  • If both remaining doors have goats behind them, he chooses one at random. 
  • After Monty Hall opens a door with a goat, he will ask you to decide whether you want to stay with your first choice or to switch to the last remaining door. 

Imagine that you chose Door 1 and the host opens Door 3, which has a goat. He then asks you: “Do you want to switch to Door 2?”

Is it to your advantage to change your choice?


Most people believe that as an incorrect option (goat) is ruled out, their odds of winning the car go up from 1/3 to ½ even by staying on the same Door 1 and there is no benefit to switching. However, it is better to switch doors as this will double your odds of winning the car. To illustrate this point, the following three scenarios (with the car being behind Door 1, 2 or 3) can be imagined, using the above rules of the game:


In Scenario 1, you have already chosen the car (Door 1) so Monty Hall will randomly open Door 2 or 3. Switching will obviously lead you to losing the car. The chance of you losing after switching, therefore, is 1/6 + 1/6 = 1/3 (as either Door 2 or 3 could be opened)

In Scenario 2 and 3, because you chose the wrong door (goat) and Monty Hall will open the door with the goat behind it, switching will lead you to choosing the car (no other choices). As the odd of either scenario happening is 1/3 each, your odds of winning after a switch is 2/3 – double the odds of winning after not switching (1/3, the odd of your first guess being right).

Of course, this is only under the assumption that the rules of the game were followed and that Monty Hall will always open a door with a goat behind it. This problem and the answer suggested was extremely controversial as tens of thousands of readers refused to believe that switching could be a better choice. However, as the above illustration shows, the Monty Hall problem is a veridical paradox – a problem with a solution that appears ludicrous but is actually proven true by induction.

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