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False Negative

A false negative is a term commonly used in statistics and error analysis. It refers to a test result which wrongfully indicates that a particular condition or attribute does not exist when in fact it does. In other words, it is an error in which a test result improperly reports the absence of a condition that is actually present.

How False Negatives work

In context of a test, there are four possible outcomes - true positive, true negative, false positive, and false negative. A true positive is when the test correctly identifies the presence of a condition. A true negative is when the test correctly identifies the absence of the condition. A false positive is when the test incorrectly indicates the presence of a condition when it's absent. Conversely, a false negative is when the test incorrectly indicates that the condition is absent when it's actually present.

For instance, in a scenario of medical testing, if a person has a certain disease but the test comes back negative, that would be a false negative. Or in a spam filter, if a legitimate email (not spam) is wrongly classified as spam and sent to the spam folder, that's a false positive. But if a spam email makes it to the inbox, that's a false negative.

It's crucial in many contexts to minimize both false positives and false negatives. However, in some circumstances one kind of error may be more tolerable than the other depending on the situation and potential risk involved. For instance, in medical testing, a false negative (missing the diagnosis of a disease when it's present) could be life-threatening, while a false positive (wrongly diagnosing a disease when it's not present) might cause unnecessary stress or treatment. Thus, understanding the concept of false negatives is pivotal in such decision-making processes.

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