DEFINITION of 'Poisson Distribution'

A statistical distribution showing the frequency probability of specific events when the average probability of a single occurrence is known. The Poisson distribution is a discrete function.

BREAKING DOWN 'Poisson Distribution'

For example, if the average number of people that rent movies on a friday night at a single video store location is 400, a Poisson distribution can answer such questions as, "What is the probability that more than 600 people will rent movies?" Therefore, application of the Poisson distribution enables managers to introduce optimal scheduling systems. One of the most famous historical practical uses of the Poisson distribution was estimating the annual number of Prussian cavalry soldiers killed due to horse-kicks. Other modern examples include estimating the number of car crashes in a city of a given size; in physiology, this distribution is often used to calculate the probabilistic frequencies of different types of neurotransmitter secretions.

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