Tag Archives: bias

Adding up biases

A crowd of peopleThe internet (I heard on Grammar Girl that the AP Stylebook says you’re not supposed to capitalize “internet” any more) experienced a flurry of virtue signaling this past weekend as netizens (does anyone still use that word?) reacted to the interrogation of Guido Menzio for doing complex math on a plane. Now, of course, what happened to Professor Menzio was completely inappropriate and unacceptable. And, of course, I would hope that I would not mistake an Italian-American doing calculus for a terrorist. But the situation made me stop and ask myself whether there are categories of people that I tend to prejudge based purely on outward appearances? Honesty would compel most of us to answer “yes.” I can’t honestly say that my initial reaction to a scruffy teenager with half of his boxers showing above his jeans is the same as my reaction to a well-dressed businessman. And it’s amazing how many netizens decrying the other passenger’s snap judgment about Menzio jumped straight to “dumb blonde” jokes, based solely on a small detail about her own appearance. Prejudices, biases, and snap judgments abound. They go hand in hand with phenomena like pereidolia and hyperactive agency detection, and were probably adaptive behaviors at some point in human history. At any rate, despite my best intentions, I still have a lot of work to do.