Tag Archives: bias

Prejudice and Bias

Only stupid people judge once.

For the rest of us, the world is a pretty exciting place. There’s always new things to consider, surprising details come up, and the “sure thing” of yesterday becomes the “maybe!” of today (and vice versa!)

At any given time, what we think of a person, a situation, or an event is our judgment. What we thought about it the last time (and the time before that) was our prejudgement, or prejudice. Our prejudices form our bias. What we will think in the future is our Monday morning quarterbacking, the difference between which and what your judgment is our hindsight bias.

If you have the correct prejudices, your hindsight bias will be l0w because your judgment will be correct. The Zimmerman Affair provides a good example of how this could work.

Knowing nothing else about the case, reasonable prejudices would provide a pretty good clue as to who violently attacked whom in the following pair.

person 1:
Sex: Male
Age: Upper 20s
Height: 5’7
Workplace: Desk
Fitness: Out out shape
Ethnicity: Hispanic

person 2:
Sex: Male
Age: Upper teens
Height: 5’11
Workplace: Unemployed (full time school)
Fitness: Athletic
Ethnicity: African-American

With this prejudice, all facts are filtered (this is analogous to the Bayesian process of “updating priors“) and one would come to the same conclusion that the jury in the Zimmerman case did: person 1 is not guilty on all counts.

But of course, only stupid people judge once.

Time goes on, our priors of person 1 are continuously updated , though there is a censorship effect in gathering new information about person 2.

There are remarkably easy ways to predict when some people have the wrong biases. But that is a post for a different time.

Convicted sex predator to serve one day in jail

Mike Nifong, a convicted sexual predator (or whatever else you would describe a man who used his government office to organize a kidnapping ring against innocent late-adolescents on sexual grounds) has been sentenced to one day in jail:

From the day he took over the Duke lacrosse rape case, Durham County District Attorney Mike Nifong charged forward with a strident determination that the guilty would end up in jail. Ultimately, the since-disgraced former prosecutor only succeeded at putting himself behind bars.

Nifong was sentenced Friday to a single day in jail, having been held in criminal contempt of court for lying to a judge during his pursuit of rape charges against the three falsely accused lacrosse players….

It was the latest in a line of punishments for a broken man who once confidently trumpeted to anyone within earshot that a woman hired to perform as a stripper at a March 2006 lacrosse team party had been raped.

While certainly it’s good that Mr. Nifong will serve a day in jail (less than a former history teacher of mine served for having the same name and ethnicity as a convict, because he was picked up on Saturday and office staff who could realize the mistake did not come in until Monday) and change careers (a “punishment” a globalized economy inflicts on thousands of Americans every year), the Mike Nifong/Crystal Gail Mangum conspiracy that criminals with just the right mix of race and status (a white male prosecutor, a black female accuser) who work together are essentially above the law.

Too bad.

Mainstream Media Climate Change Bias

What the AP reported:

Kerry Emanuel, an MIT professor who had feuded with Gray over global warming, said Gray has wrongly “dug (his) heels in” even though there is ample evidence that the world is getting hotter.

What a google search found within thirty seconds.:

Q: … is global warming behind this increase in hurricanes?

Gray: I am very confident that it’s not. I mean we have had global warming. That’s not a question. The globe has warmed the last 30 years, and the last 10 years in particular.

Hat-tip to Power Line, courtesy of John Hawks.

Update: South Dakota Politics agrees.