Friday, December 13, 2019

Biases and natural experiments

I teach legal classes. I've done so in some capacity for almost a decade, so I've had a ton of teaching evaluations over the years. I just got done reading my teaching evaluations from this summer, mostly because I ask intuition when is a good time to read it, and if it isn't a good time I just wait until I get a confirmation that it is. So I had some time, caught up tonight on grading, and looked at them. Some were better than I thought they were going to be (my "boss" had emailed some concerns about them, which I responded to, but hadn't read the evaluations). I got like a 4.9/5 rating, which I don't know but guess is one of the highest out of all of the instructors at that particular institution. The other institution I knew at least one review was bad because when the boss emailed me, it said "the one is basically an outlier," so didn't worry. But there were actually two really negative reviews. One of them said "I don't know why she teaches here."

Of course I know that you can't please everyone and sometimes a teaching style that some people will like, others don't, etc. Some people want more assignments! They want me to be strict or to penalize them for things. I don't know, maybe they don't have a great internal locus of control and feel like they want me to police them, but I don't because it's their agency and they can use it to learn or not to learn.

But these two people for were really negative. One said "Frankly, I really don't see what she is doing teaching here." And: "Enough with the [review] games, stop being lazy and truly teach your students something." How often do these outliers happen? I find that there's either none, or about half the time there are 1-3 per class. And it's kind of an interesting social experiment, because they all take the same class. And the rest of them are saying things like the class is great and they love the review games, etc.

What is going on? Again it could be that some people don't like the format of the class or maybe they're jaded because I was giving them bad grades or because they learned things a different way and don't like my way (the practice of law is like music or art in that there are some basic rules of thumb to go by, but there's actually also a lot of discretion and "practice" in the discipline). Or maybe they don't like women or whatever. But you know what intuition thinks it is? Intuition thinks that some students google my name and see that I've written a book about being a diagnosed sociopath and they don't like that. And that knowledge colors their perspective of everything else they experience in the class. Suddenly I am lazy, not innovative for reviewing the material in a game show format.

Sometimes students will outright reference the book. Not surprisingly those evaluations almost always have a very poor view of the value of the class. My people know about the book and are still very supportive (one of the bosses did disability accommodation in a previous position and the other one is a baby boomer era gay woman, so I feel like they both get it better than your average person, and I'm lucky that way).

But even when evaluations don't explicitly mention the book, there can be weird comments like: "I felt that the instructor was ambivalent about our success and comprehension." That's a common one I see in conjunction with the comments about the book. I think they're trying to find a relevant reason to complain. It doesn't matter that I seem perfectly friendly and invested in their success, everything I do is seen through a lens of suspicion. Why did I choose to have them do group work? It must be because I'm lazy. That sort of thing. But interestingly students who don't seem to know about the book will mention that they loved the group work, etc.

You've probably heard the term "natural experiment". Like situations in life that just happen to have experimental qualities -- things like community programs that are decided randomly, e.g. based on a lottery system.

I guess my situation is not quite a natural experiment, because I'm sure it's not entirely random who decides to google me. I often think it's the people that especially like me and the class at first that are more prone to google me. But they all subsequently sit through the same class and come up with really different ideas about it. And with the people that know about the book, it seems to color their every subsequent interaction with me.

Have you ever taken those inherent biases tests? The ones that kind of play off your expectations, like the word yellow written in purple and you have to read yellow out loud? But for racism or for sexism? I feel like I am just as socialized as the next person to have inherent biases. Maybe it's seeing so many examples of bias or the way people's psychological make-up distorts their perceptions or seeing how normal deeply ingrained norms seem to the people I visit in my travels and how foreign they seem to me, but I'm basically a 3/10 for believing that I can rely on my own mental capacity to understand. I love to learn, but I just know that my understanding is so limited -- sometimes in really obvious ways like when I try to understand dark matter, and sometimes better like when I actually was able to understand how astronomers have predicted a ninth planet (not Pluto, which doesn't count, but a new planet we have never seen before based on the motion of other objects in our solar system). Also I think being in academia really jaded me in terms of relying on expert anything? Because I have met those people and they're just people. And like all other people they're like 7/10 driven by fear and self preservation. I see it in the sociopathy researchers who won't stick their neck out and go against the general tide and I see it in my students who take corporate jobs they hate and I see it in a million other ways in which people settle for something less than the truth that will set them free and their real life's purpose. 


  1. Trusting your intuition is a good move. People will continue to be challenged by what you've written, ME, but that is a natural part of the process. People always demonise what is not understood: false positives are safer than false negatives.

    On that point, well, I continue to think **-* must realise things were ok, nothing was wrong. It's hard for me to understand why he was so angry. I don't understand. The thought stays in my mind like a splinter, but I don't think he sees it this way at all and there's nothing I can do to influence.

    In my career, I've observed people and the various ways they navigate very low trust environments. Alliances shift very readily, it's very, very fluid, very tactical. One learns that a person you like and connect with might move against you tomorrow. To be successful, you have to learn to be ok with that, and to be an actor yourself. There aren't any "shoulds" regarding behaviour, except a kind of honour among thieves, and am emergent system in which a kind of fairness is informally regulated. There's a reason for the saying "cheaters never prosper".

    And I think even "deranged" people have a "logic" that is coherent to them. Everything is about survival, for sociopaths and non-sociopaths. It pays to be open-minded when it comes to interpreting human behaviour... but this is not easy. Bias has some survival value, clearly, because it is such a strong element in the consciousness of a prominent species. The question, I think, these days is whether collaboration is of more value. I think normalisation is pushing us towards more collaboration and less bias however, I think it's probably skin deep, as described in this article:

    The Economist: People are hard wired to dehumanise others

    1. I had an **_* -- and he died three weeks ago.

      Have you heard of the concept of 'ambiguous loss'?

      Death's only blessing is that it removes all ambiguity.

      After L died, it no longer mattered -- who was angry, or who was the nice one, or who the disordered one, or to blame, or whatever. It was all laid to rest, nine feet underground.

      I stood on the flaming ruin of the house that was built, and heard the voice from On High:

      "Time to Rebuild"

      First time I've ever heard the Voice, and possibly the last.

      --sometimes miracles occur

      --sometimes the flaming ruin IS the miracle

  2. In a fairytale many had opinions about a low emotional person. "-I think you should do this" one said "-You reek of nonchalance" said another. A quiet moment followed, then the low emotional person asked: "-Have all the yappers yapped enough..?"

    1. In the fairytale, people thought everything they said was taken in the worst possible way, and that simply expressing themselves was always regarded as some violation of autonomy. Eventually, they stopped making allowances for the low-emotional condition because it ultimately didn't make a blind bit of difference.

    2. In a yarn an expressionless pupil angered his teachers just by being so "blank". They said: "-We want you to show some enthusiasm for our youth prison!" The pupil looked at them. He thought they looked like some fusion between vultures and car salesmen crooks..

    3. I had a pet guinea pig as a child. He became very sick.

      I reached to comfort him and he bit me. We had been friends, I loved him.

    4. I like watermelon

    5. Kiwi Fruit is lovely, close to home, and so lovely and green and round

      but you just can't DO this with kiwi fruit: Sledge O Matic

    6. man i love kiwi but its so dang expensive here

  3. Replies
    1. I'll prolly die anonymous, I'll prolly die with promises
      I'll prolly die walkin' back home from the candy house
      I'll prolly die because these colors are standin' out
      I'll prolly die because I ain't know Demarcus was snitchin'
      I'll prolly die at these house parties, fuckin' with bitches
      I'll prolly die from witnesses leavin' me falsed accused
      I'll prolly die from thinkin' that me and your hood was cool
      Or maybe die from pressin' the line, actin' too extra
      Or maybe die because these smokers are more than desperate
      I'll prolly die from one of these bats and blue badges
      Body-slammed on black and white paint, my bones snappin'
      Or maybe die from panic or die from bein' too lax
      Or die from waitin' on it, die 'cause I'm movin' too fast
      I'll prolly die tryna buy weed at the apartments
      I'll prolly die tryna defuse two homies arguin'
      I'll prolly die 'cause that's what you do when you're 17
      All worries in a hurry, I wish I controlled things

      and I miss Pluto

  4. Are socios that are unable to "become something" in the world guilty of this? If nature did not give them the capacity to spend years & years on education, can they really be blamed? Can onelegged individuals be blamed for not running marathons..?

    1. begs the question of why running a marathon is such a terrific thing to aspire to in the first place

      bloody waste of time, it seems to me

    2. I think some manage it. Having minions to outsource the boring-ass garbage required to achieve such successes sure helps. In fact, like in, I would say, most things in life, the rate of Socio success v. failure strictly comes down to what side of the socioeconomic fence the parents chose to spawn said Socio on.

    3. Nothing unique to the sociopathic condition in this thread

    4. What would be, though?

    5. The quality and nature of experience, I imagine

    6. Maybe there isn't, and this whole Sociopathy business is just one big con?


    7. Reality escapes all concepts
      however we look for explanations that give us enough grasp as to provide serviceable predictions.

      Note I saw serviceable, not correct. We all run through this world with impossibly incorrect beliefs. Our brains are wired for survival, not truth. For winning arguments and not for fact. Facts are useful insofar as they help us win social contests (including competence contests).

      What is your view of sociopathy?

    8. Yeah, I did write something answering that, but I'm afraid it is rather long.

      Especially as the actual question might have actually been: "why do you hang out in a sociopath blog if you think the idea is a scam?"

      and that I will answer because it is snort & sweet - and the answer is, I have grown too accustomed to the people I have to deal with on a regular basis, so am trying this out for a bit. Also because of the cool video you posted.

      What about YOU, what is YOUR view of sociopathy?

    9. Rama and Neo

      I think sociopathy is a convergent, stable configuration of the human condition, one of several viable patterns of human nature.

    10. I should have mentioned: I like that video because it's message is that what matters is behaviour, not nature of experience. Behaviour is pertinent to evolution; regardless of how motivation might vary between types of individuals.

      That's my viewpoint.

    11. are you young? You seem youthful to me; idealistic, even

      and do you consider yourself part of that cohort?

      there is a sense in which the construct lends itself to idealism, reification, etc. This whole aspiring to some Ubermensch condition - The Matrix actually is part of that construct.

      not so in the video posted, that bit was odd. "what matters is behaviour" so machines learn to love, something like that? Behaviour leads to evolution? Or the capacity to spontaneously evince a certain behaviour that was not possible before part of evolution itself - IE if AI learns to love or have human emotions? And what's the significance that the humans are trying to get out of the matrix but the programmes/machines want in? And what does that have to do with the sociopathy construct?

      thanks for reminding me to watch those movies - I'd forgotten about them. Yay, Netflix

    12. Idealistic? Not young, although I'm not disillusioned the way sociopaths often seem to be so perhaps that's the difference. I don't see others as rotten or seething with hypocrisy (the book I'm reading at the moment rams these points home page after page).

      I do enjoy the creativity of your thoughts, it appeals to me that you've spun off so many potential weaves from a solitary knot and loose thread.

      Ubermensch aspiration? Not for me and I rather think in dividers the God complex is more an arrest at the age of self-centredness than a construction. It's a natural belief, something not grown out of.

      Are you suggesting that perhaps, regardless of our condition, we are prone to envy? That it's human nature to want all the cake and cake the lot of it too? I should think it likely. What do you think?

      I used to watch Netflix but it's been some time now. Any movie suggestions from yourself?

    13. *sociopaths, not dividers

      *have, not cake

    14. Thanks for proving me wrong regarding your age (fun to be wrong now & again or often), though it sounds like you do consider yourself part of that cohort and are content with belonging to that. That shit will keep you young, so do keep that going.

      What is that book?

      Thanks for the compliment :)

      I'm so with you on that. But we needed that, didn't we? As a species/civilization, that was a needed component (for good or ill, and I do like AC in summer, so...) but it is good to hear of others who choose (or can't) embroil their ego in that game because that gets old.

      Yes, once again, none of the shit you see around you can exist without that force and it's a pity that more people don't really apprehend the fundamental flaw of why envy's not really possible - it just collapses under the weight of its own absurdity (Foucault - Madness & Civilization - there's a good one, at least the 1st chapter) but it is still a useful force to be harnessed, in oneself & others

      Netflix is a tiresome wasteland of overfunded compromised sorts trying to put some agenda or other over on me so sadly, no. But I like seeing things I need to at the moment for whatever reason and your reminding me of the Matrix is something I needed to hear/interact with, so thanks.

      Now I have a serious question: am I going to die soon? I trust your judgment so tell me what you honestly think.

  5. I'm curious - your book was written under a pseudonym, how do people google your name and find out you wrote it?

    1. A better question is: why did you stop writing that very unambitious blog about chickens? Did writing in & of itself get old, or was it the raising of chickens?

  6. Authors studying monsters like white sharks often seem to like & respect these. Authors studying sociopaths sometimes seem to HATE them with a passion. Why? Perhaps one can understand booky types visiting prisons and meeting the classic "demon" socio that starts toying with them intellectually, degrading them with lies & nasty games. But is a leering prison-socio really worse (to meet) than a feces-throwing monkey?

    1. It's envy, my darling, is it not? Is that not the correct answer?

      Like that abominable Martha Crouch woman, she fairly seethes with it - her 'book' so strongly marinates in that most Christian of Virtues that the whole thing gives off the sweet putrefaction of a not-so-fresh corpse.

    2. Why would revered authors be jealous of prisoners? More likely the psycho hatred have something to do with the "sphere of degradation" surrounding many psychopaths. This phenomena does not care if the visitor is a professor, it slowly erodes even pompous academics sense of superiority. In the end they feel like somebody on a surfboard noticing a cirkling black fin. Fear (many use hatred later to "ego restore").

    3. to discover one's sense of self is so fragile that its eroded by the lowest scum prisoner in spite of all the years, time, etc invested in bulding it ... yeah i can see how that would do a number on your head LULZ

      kind of explains a lot actually

  7. i know of a women who worked with monkeys in a lab experiment situation, the monkey pooped on everyone in that way that they do and she did not take the necesary precautions. A couple weeks later she died of some ebola kind of thing

    true story


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