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::Sensitivity and specificity

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Mathit::disease    Positive::negative    False::journal    Title::number    Patients::recall    First::healthy

Sensitivity and specificity are statistical measures of the performance of a binary classification test, also known in statistics as classification function:

  • Sensitivity (also called the true positive rate, or the recall in some fields) measures the proportion of positives that are correctly identified as such (e.g., the percentage of sick people who are correctly identified as having the condition).
  • Specificity (also called the true negative rate) measures the proportion of negatives that are correctly identified as such (e.g., the percentage of healthy people who are correctly identified as not having the condition).

Thus sensitivity quantifies the avoiding of false negatives, as specificity does for false positives.

For any test, there is usually a trade-off between the measures. For instance, in an airport security setting in which one is testing for potential threats to safety, scanners may be set to trigger on low-risk items like belt buckles and keys (low specificity), in order to reduce the risk of missing objects that do pose a threat to the aircraft and those aboard (high sensitivity). This trade-off can be represented graphically as a receiver operating characteristic curve.

A perfect predictor would be described as 100% sensitive (e.g., all sick are identified as sick) and 100% specific (e.g., all healthy are not identified as sick); however, theoretically any predictor will possess a minimum error bound known as the Bayes error rate.


Sensitivity and specificity sections
Intro  Definitions  Medical examples  Worked example  Estimation of errors in quoted sensitivity or specificity  Terminology in information retrieval  See also  References  Further reading  External links  

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