Saturday, June 23, 2007

"bias bias"

Here's a link to an amusing and useful page cited on an Edward Tufte forum: a list of cognitive biases divided into four categories: decision-making and behavioral biases, biases in probability and belief, social biases, and memory errors.
Tufte writes:

There's also the "bias bias," where lists of cognitive biases are used as rhetorical weapons to attack any analysis, regardless of the quality of the analysis. The previous sentence then could be countered by describing it as an example of the "bias bias bias," and so on in an boring infinite regress of tu quoque disputation, or "slashdot."

The way out is to demand evidence for a claim of bias, and not just to rely on an assertion of bias.

Good stuff.
One bias we've seen a lot in recent years but which didn't make the list is truthiness bias. The bias I've probably heard most in everyday conversation--racial bias--isn't on the list. I imagine cognitive scientists might group racial bias into in group bias, and/or outgroup homogeneity bias--not that the wikipedia list is necessarily comprehensive or representative of the discipline's practices.