We humans aren’t the most logical creatures. Take information processing: if we were perfect reasoners, we would absorb all the new facts we learn and use them to modify our view of the world. But while we do something like this with good news, bad news tends to go in one ear and out the other. While this good news / bad news effect gives you a more positive outlook on life, it can make you blindly optimistic, unprepared for the real consequences of medical problems or natural disasters.
“John Key is alive.” Quick, is this statement true or false? Unless you’re well versed in international politics (or a resident of New Zealand), you probably have no idea who John Key is, so you’ll have to rely on your gut feeling. And it turns out, according to a recent paper, that your gut is a sucker for pretty pictures. People are more likely to believe a statement is true when it is accompanied by a picture—any old picture—or verbal description.
Early anthropologist Samuel George Morton, accused by
Gould of bias in his measurements of skulls, may finally
What’s the News: Harvard biologist and popular author Stephen Jay Gould was a well-known advocate for evolution and denouncer of scientific bias. But a new study shows that one of his most famous claims—that an early researcher unconsciously manipulated his measurements of skulls to make Caucasians seem smarter—is baseless.
The researcher actually made few errors, and it looks like Gould never bothered to measure the skulls himself, as the study’s authors did, before crying bias. “Ironically,” the authors write, “Gould’s own analysis…is likely the stronger example of a bias influencing results.”