Choice Blindness
July 13, 2021 11:59 AM   Subscribe

In a 2005 experiment, psychologist Petter Johansson and his colleagues presented each subject with two photographs of women’s faces and asked which they found more attractive. In each case the experimenter then presented the “chosen” photograph and asked the subject to explain their choice. But in fact, using sleight of hand, the experimenter had exchanged the photos and was presenting the one that the subject hadn’t picked. from Futility Closet
posted by chavenet (57 comments total) 23 users marked this as a favorite
 
Humans are broken.
posted by Faint of Butt at 12:03 PM on July 13 [6 favorites]


I wonder how much of this is caused by stress. For me, the more stressed and “on the spot” I feel in a situation, the crappier my cognitive functions become.

And yes, humans are broken.
posted by Silvery Fish at 12:12 PM on July 13 [11 favorites]


Here's a longer Ted Talk video from Peter Johansson talking about the experiment and the implications, including footage of actual experiment.
posted by Pater Aletheias at 12:23 PM on July 13 [7 favorites]


Sort of a form of bullying, "Hey why are you hitting yourself, why don't you stop hitting yourself?"
posted by StickyCarpet at 12:31 PM on July 13 [7 favorites]


Recently I came across a similar experiment showing that this kind of effect happens even with infants.

Using some clever experimental design (also involving sleight-of-hand), the researchers were able to show that when babies are allowed to choose between two toys, they become more likely to dislike the toy that they think they didn't choose, regardless of any pre-existing preferences.
posted by teraflop at 12:39 PM on July 13 [13 favorites]


I wonder how much of this is caused by stress. For me, the more stressed and “on the spot” I feel in a situation, the crappier my cognitive functions become.

In the linked video he says they did test for this -- they gave someone 5 seconds, 10 seconds, or as much time as possible. Even with unlimited time, the participants didn't notice the photos were switched like 70+% of the time. There might be some other stressors for sure (like just being a participant at all) but they did consider "on-the-spot"ness a bit it seems.
posted by thebots at 12:46 PM on July 13 [10 favorites]


I’d love to see this experiment replicated with a computer rather than a human researcher presenting the faces and then the “selected” face, to see if there’s an element of social pressure not to challenge the researcher that might not be present with technology.
posted by epj at 12:58 PM on July 13 [61 favorites]


I mean wasn't there was an experiment where they wired someone's brain with an electrode so that they could stimulate the person to, say, look to the left. They'd stimulate them, ask them why they moved their head to the left, and the person would always have some kind of reason why they did it, even though it was non-volutary. I feel like this was in one of Oliver Sacks' books?
posted by RustyBrooks at 1:18 PM on July 13 [4 favorites]


This seems to be a combination of change blindness and confirmation bias, no?
posted by Mr.Know-it-some at 1:21 PM on July 13 [4 favorites]


It turns out, when you lie to people, they become confused
posted by saturday_morning at 1:27 PM on July 13 [110 favorites]


This seems like very binary thinking. Choosing between two items, it's not as if I absolutely love one and abhor the other. If they are similar, and you switch them, maybe the difference isn't enough for me to notice, or frankly care. I find it hard to see this as some sort of mental defect, or faulty reasoning.
posted by boymilo at 1:30 PM on July 13 [18 favorites]


Pretty damning evidence of why crime witnesses can't be depended on to make convictions.
Hopefully watching stuff like this will make people think twice before assuming everything they think is correct just because they thought it. You thought you saw that person there but it's possible you didn't. You thought you were very invested in something but maybe you just enjoyed it and it was around and you're capable of enjoying many other things that just weren't around at the time. Stuff like that. People really need to loosen up in general.
posted by bleep at 1:40 PM on July 13 [26 favorites]


If you put people in a stressful situation and ask them to tell you something, they'll tell you something.
posted by StephenF at 1:59 PM on July 13 [8 favorites]


Are people actually able to articulate why they find someone attractive, outside of really obvious things like height or facial hair or something?

If you handed me a photo I hadn't really been paying attention to and asked me why it was attractive, I'd definitely find something to say, probably as vague as the people in the experiment footage.

They seem "a little more innocent" or a "little more interesting".
Honestly, it sounds like the participants are just making up platitudes rather than truly making an evaluation.
posted by madajb at 2:47 PM on July 13 [11 favorites]


I heard about a similar experiment where Trump and Clinton supporters were asked to rate the candidates on various attributes, then the researchers swapped out the answers and asked the respondents to explain why they gave the fake answers. Most people did very well explaining why they gave the answers they didn't give.

I'll be damned if I can find it now, though.

Most of the time when I'm asked to rate a bunch of things on a scale, I'm pretty much picking the numbers randomly. They never seem to have a second axis for "how much do you care?", which would allow me to pick "I really don't care and my answer is basically random."
posted by clawsoon at 2:48 PM on July 13 [9 favorites]


Ah, here it is: Giving people false descriptions of their political opinions depolarizes these views, a new study finds.

No word on whether you could make people more polarized using the same technique. Probably, I'm guessing. No doubt that's already a standard tool of cult leaders and extremist recruiters.
posted by clawsoon at 2:52 PM on July 13 [11 favorites]


Similar to epj's point, I'd be curious if those who spotted the change were more inclined to not trust authority in general than those that didn't notice.
posted by coffeecat at 2:56 PM on July 13 [5 favorites]


Which of the lenses is clearer? One... or two? One? Or two? How about now? One? Or two? One? Or two? How about now?

Those are all the same lenses, aren't they?

You caught me. They are.

That's okay - I've had my eyes closed the whole time, too.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 2:56 PM on July 13 [67 favorites]


Though this is surprising, it's not quite as surprising if you look at the details.

First, look at Figure S2 in the paper. (Easiest to find if you start at the end.) It's not the case that people didn't notice the switcheroo— from 30% to 70% did, depending on other variables.

Second, look at the exposure times: 2 seconds, 5 seconds. How much of a picture can you memorize in that time? Maybe only enough that you recognize the picture as one that you just saw, rather than the one you just picked.

Third, look at the actual pictures they used, Figure S1. They purposely used some very similar faces, and people detected the switch more when they used dissimilar faces.

There's a bunch of reasons that could help explain the results. People have mentioned stress; I think more likely is apathy— people are not very invested in these choices. Another area to investigate would be face-blindness, which can affect 1 in 50 people... perhaps more, if more mild forms are included.
posted by zompist at 3:06 PM on July 13 [17 favorites]


> the person would always have some kind of reason why they did it, even though it was non-voluntary

That reminds me of a time when I had some unexplained back pain, and the doctor wired me up to this machine* with electrodes on my back that made my muscles tense up and release repeatedly. I experienced the strange sensation that I was doing this intentionally, even though I knew I couldn't move my back muscles that way normally. I experimented with the sensation by trying to stay relaxed each time, but I couldn't refrain from tensing when the machine hit its cycle.

It made me wonder how much of my apparent control over my life is really just explanatory after-the-fact narrative. I feel like my brain is controlling my body, yet I persist in doing habits I claim to myself that I don't want.

*I forget what the machine was called; I dub it the "Placebotron 3000" when retelling the story because it was a very intensely "medical" intervention but didn't seem to have any effect on the back pain.
posted by xris at 3:09 PM on July 13 [21 favorites]


"Fuck off, I'm not rating people on physical attractiveness." is the only acceptable response.
posted by srboisvert at 3:19 PM on July 13 [10 favorites]


I only rate people on edibility.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 3:20 PM on July 13 [25 favorites]


; I think more likely is apathy— people are not very invested in these choices.

When I was in college, part of the requirements for a 101 level course was that you had to participate in 2 grad-level experiments or write 2 additional papers.

I often wonder if the grad students running those experiments accounted for the nature of the pool they were drawing from.
posted by madajb at 3:21 PM on July 13 [19 favorites]


I forget what the machine was called; I dub it the "Placebotron 3000"

Some variation on a TENS unit?
posted by cortex at 3:34 PM on July 13 [3 favorites]


I for one am really glad we've figured out the entirety of human reasoning here on internet message boards and am sure some fascinating papers and articles are coming from it.
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 3:38 PM on July 13 [4 favorites]


There's a nice BBC video about the experiment here.
posted by pipeski at 3:41 PM on July 13 [3 favorites]


This is a case where I think the fact that the paper is 16 years old makes me more forgiving. There's no doubt that we sometimes use our brain to rationalize decisions, rather than to make decisions. This seems like a not super dramatic or convincing example (for the reasons posters have said) but might have been more novel at the time.

As someone with a mild-ish case of face blindness the idea of going through 30 pairs of faces then being mocked in a paper for not noticing the change is annoying--though I'm hyper-attuned to things like hair so maybe I'd have called them out on it?

Also, after reading the paper, if I ever get on an IRB I'll insist that all research on human subjects involve close up magic.
posted by mark k at 3:51 PM on July 13 [5 favorites]


if there’s an element of social pressure not to challenge the researcher

2005 experiment conducted by an all-male team: Petter Johansson, Lars Hall, Sverker Sikstrom, & Andreas Olsson. We showed picture pairs of female faces to 120 participants (70 female) and asked them to choose which face in each pair they found most attractive.
--
"Fuck off, I'm not rating people on physical attractiveness." is the only acceptable response.

One female respondent, on her choice of photo: She looks like an aunt of mine I think, and she seems nicer than the other one.
--
The Choice Blindness Lab at Lund University, 16 years on.
posted by Iris Gambol at 3:59 PM on July 13 [8 favorites]


It's just some Confidence Trick psychology in a clinical setting, of course. The essential thing is that the Mark is seduced into the mental path of least resistance.

(It's not like I was never hornswoggled when I was a fresh-faced yokel my first time in the big city, well probably not, but it's a long story...)
posted by ovvl at 4:29 PM on July 13 [7 favorites]


There was a whole bunch of research in the '00s and early '10s around this general theme of exploring whether people generally make rational decisions, or just rationalize the decisions they (think they) made. I think the claim that many of these studies made, that people frequently make decisions for reasons that are not conscious or rational, addresses an important point, particularly as a response to so-called "rational actor theory" from the economics of previous decades. But it's also true that I think a lot of these researchers kind of overstated their case, for reasons that include many of the criticisms people are raising here. The statistical demands of most study designs create a highly artificial situation where you have to ask each person to make a large number of decisions. Having participated as a pilot subject in many of these kinds of studies, yeah, you definitely tune out pretty quickly after the first few dozen essentially identical choices you're offered and start making decisions using more automatic processes.

I subscribe to the view that there are (at least) two decision processes that people use: a fast, low-effort system that operates on previously-trained heuristics, and a slow, deliberative system that operates on reasoning and episodic memory. The design of many decision-making studies essentially biases subjects to employ the fast system, either because there's simply not enough time to properly engage the slow system, or because making 100 deliberative decisions in a row is simply too much cognitive effort. The design of this study is kind of an interesting case, in that the task that they're actually interested in, subjects' reporting of why they chose a certain face as more attractive, consists of relatively infrequent trials for which subjects can engage the slow system, embedded within the task of choosing between faces, which almost certainly engages the fast system. Effectively, you're asking people's slow, deliberative decision-making systems to give an accounting of the behavior of their fast, heuristic-based system. Preserving a unified sense of self requires that the slow system give some kind of answer as if it were responsible for the original decision, so you get the sort of confabulation behavior seen here.

The fact that you have this kind of quirk of human decision-making systems is really interesting in terms of what it tells us about how those systems function. But the conclusion that many researchers have wanted to draw, that is suggested at the end of the video, is "this is actually how all our decisions work." But that's not warranted from the evidence, it's an artifact of the way we measure behavior. I like to use the analogy that these kinds of studies are similar to the use of optical illusions in the study of human vision. They can actually tell us quite a lot, but if your conclusion from, say, the Necker cube is that human vision doesn't work, or even worse doesn't exist, well, you've very much missed the point.
posted by biogeo at 4:38 PM on July 13 [29 favorites]


Normally our minds work in a seamless way. It's cool psychological experiments like this that show how all the pieces fit together.

Andy Clark ("Natural-Born Cyborgs") describes how our brains don't maintain a detailed visual cache of what's in front of us. Instead the world itself acts as the cache.
Similar experiments have been performed using pictures of a visual scene, such as a house, with a parked car and a garden. As before, the [subject] sits in front of a computer-generated display. Her eye movements are monitored and, while they saccade around the display, changes are clandestinely made: the colors of flowers and cars are altered, the structure of the house may be changed; yet these changes, likewise, go undetected. ... our brains just don't bother to create rich inner models. Why should they? The world itself is still there, a complex and perfect store of all that data, nicely poised for swift retrieval as and when needed by the simple expedient of visual saccade [involuntary eye movement] to a selected location.
An amusing example of "change blindness":
[Simons and Levin] set up a kind of slapstick scenario in which an experimenter would pretend to be lost on the Cornell campus, and would approach an unsuspecting passerby to ask for directions. Once the passerby started to reply, two people carrying a large door would (rudely!) walk right between the inquirer and the passerby. During the walk through, however, the original inquirer is deftly replaced (under cover of the door) by a different person. Only 50 percent of the subjects (the direction-givers) noticed the change. Yet the two experimenters were of different heights, wore different clothes, had very different voices, and so on. ... [Our failures to detect change] arise because "we lack a precise representation of our visual world from one view to the next" and encode only a kind of rough gist of the current scene.
posted by russilwvong at 4:48 PM on July 13 [16 favorites]


I'm not a scientist. But this seems very unscientific to me. It's a weird setup to begin with, sitting across from another person, being shown small photos of faces and having to choose one on the spot. Regardless if the person volunteered to do this or was picked randomly, it's just an odd exercise. I agree that this would be better if there were no human facilitator. I also think if the photos were larger and clearer it might have a big impact (though it's admittedly hard to tell from the links just how large and clear the photos are).

There's no "benefit" or even a reason to pick the "right" one, so it becomes simply an exercise of pointing left or right. Maybe some photos DO seem more attractive to the test subject. But maybe there doesn't seem to be much of a difference? It's hard to tell. The entire setup of this experiment appears (again, admittedly hard to tell from the footage and photos) mildly uncomfortable and highly artificial.

I do not doubt that choice blindness exists. But this experiment just seems a really strange way of demonstrating... anything.
posted by SoberHighland at 5:10 PM on July 13 [3 favorites]


Adding: by "benefit" I mean the subject doesn't get satisfaction by appearing smart in solving a problem. Also, the sleight of hand might be noticed or interpreted as a mistake, which the subject didn't feel the urge to correct the presenter. The choice is essentially meaningless, then the chosen (or presented) photo is simply elaborated on by the subject just to keep things moving ("I really like curly dark hair" or whatever. Any answer and explanation is valid)
posted by SoberHighland at 5:22 PM on July 13 [1 favorite]


I’d love to see this experiment replicated with a computer rather than a human researcher presenting the faces and then the “selected” face, to see if there’s an element of social pressure not to challenge the researcher

Like some combo of Milgram’s well-known obedience study and the tendency we all have to marry our opinions more fervently than we wed our spouses.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 5:35 PM on July 13 [2 favorites]


cortex: "Some variation on a TENS unit?" --> Yes, it looked something like that!
posted by xris at 5:36 PM on July 13 [1 favorite]


Once the passerby started to reply, two people carrying a large door would (rudely!) walk right between the inquirer and the passerby. During the walk through, however, the original inquirer is deftly replaced (under cover of the door) by a different person. Only 50 percent of the subjects (the direction-givers) noticed the change.

This was a gag pulled on Just for Laughs Gags, an inescapable cheap time filler program on The Comedy Channel twenty years ago.

1. The japester, with a large dog on a leash, asks a random passerby (the mark) to hold onto the leash of their dog while japester steps into the washroom for a moment. The mark agrees.

2. A small crowd of five or six people approaches the mark with a city map to ask directions. While they crowd around, obstructing the view of the dog, another confederate of the japester swaps out the dog, replacing the St. Bernard with a Yorkshire Terrier.

3. The crowd thanks the mark and leave, just in time for the mark to notice, puzzled, they now have 8% of the dog they had thirty seconds earlier.

4. The japester returns and demands some sort of explanation, before dropping the facade and pointing out the hidden cameras.

I suppose the change is dramatic enough to leave the mark confused and nonplussed for a moment. I dunno what they’d do if the mark failed to notice the swap or indeed disputed it. Probably not put it on TV, for one thing.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 5:53 PM on July 13 [5 favorites]


So, what you're saying is, if we spent enough money on CGI we could replace Trump with a large carrot and over 50% of GOPers would fail to notice the difference? Would they then be willing to march off a cliff if the carrot appeared to demand it? Because, if so, I think we've just saved your nation.
posted by aramaic at 6:28 PM on July 13 [6 favorites]


I would imagine that you'd get different results if you used pictures of women I already know ("Who is more attractive, Salma Hayek or..." Let me just stop you there. The answer is Salma Hayek) or pictures of unknown women where I found one woman significantly more attractive than the other. As it is, it's pictures of two kind of generic looking women of about equal attractiveness and, honestly, I'm not sure which one I find more attractive and I'd probably change my mind if you asked me in a day, so it's not too surprising to me that people couldn't remember who they had picked.

OTOH, I remember that video posted on the blue a while back about someone stopping to ask for directions and while the helpful person is giving directions they are swiftly swapped out for a completely different looking individual, with most people not noticing. So maybe we are just dumb.
posted by It's Never Lurgi at 6:34 PM on July 13 [4 favorites]


I see there is more than one video like the one I described, but this is the one I was thinking of.
posted by It's Never Lurgi at 6:41 PM on July 13 [2 favorites]


I know the effect has been replicated with paintings and, as pointed out above, political views.

Finding out about how easily our brains rationalise choices in favour of what we think is going on helped me to understand prejudice more completely. It's easy to think that the charge of 'racism' get flung around too easily, but what's happening is that, because there's widespread agreement that it's bad to be racist (which is, to be clear, a good thing), when people make decisions based on implicit bias (which is widespread), they justify it using the same kind of choice blindness we see in these examples. So someone might claim to be real worked up about Colin Kaepernick being "political", for instance - or a black person might have a negative reaction from looking in the mirror and not realise that their negative feelings about themselves and their community come from internalised bias.
posted by Merus at 6:55 PM on July 13 [3 favorites]


These studies always strike me as being performed in a very artificial context and being of no consequence to the subject. The performance of the subject is not necessarily going to be similar to what happens in the real world.
posted by njohnson23 at 7:06 PM on July 13 [3 favorites]


MetaFilter: The performance of the subject is not necessarily going to be similar to what happens in the real world.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 7:33 PM on July 13 [3 favorites]


During the walk through, however, the original inquirer is deftly replaced (under cover of the door) by a different person. Only 50 percent of the subjects (the direction-givers) noticed the change. Yet the two experimenters were of different heights, wore different clothes, had very different voices, and so on.

It really feels like this sort of thing could use a better base of "how prevalent is face-blindness/aphantasia across populations?"
Because if I haven't been working with you in person, daily, for a couple-few months, you could be *anyone* to me. Also I'm bad with names. And I'm pretty aphantasic.

So really, much of my life interacting with people is going "You seem vaguely familiar, and I'm pretty sure I should know who you are, but repeatedly asking would get rude eventually, so if I perform the right motions & gestures eventually someone'll mention your name and I can remember that until if we meet again"

So from my perspective, the original experiment is asking two different & unrelated questions.
1. Arbitrarily decide between two faces. I could probably flip a coin for as much as my answers would be stable.
2. Come up with justifications for why someone might pick one of the faces. Again, I could probably flip a coin, I already know my answers would be arbitrary & have nothing to do with the faces in question.

"Which is more attractive between these two apples? these two sunsets? a goat and an iguana? an abstract concept of linear time and the noise a cat makes when perturbed?"
They're playing us for fools!
posted by CrystalDave at 8:06 PM on July 13 [5 favorites]


When I worked retail, I often had the unsettling experience of talking to a customer, going off to find their thing/answer, and then being entirely unable to pick them out of the crowd when I returned. I couldn't recognise them at all. And I otherwise would not have said I had any particular face blindness.

I also generally only find people with attractive personalities attractive, so most photographs don't elicit any particular response from me whatsoever. I would rate the vast majority of people about the same.

So in this experiment I feel I definitely would not notice the swap and would just try find something nice to say about whatever photograph I was handed, but it wouldn't say anything about my decision making.
posted by stillnocturnal at 12:54 AM on July 14 [2 favorites]


Humans are broken.

Humans aren't machines.
posted by Thorzdad at 5:28 AM on July 14 [9 favorites]


Explain your attraction to a particular photo of a woman, and only a woman? This alone seems packed with social pitfalls, given how society rates women's attractiveness anyway.
posted by tiny frying pan at 5:53 AM on July 14 [2 favorites]


This whole idea does seem like it would be valuable in various capital-R Rationalist communities, who sometimes seem like they think they do post-hoc rationalization less than everybody else while usually doing it more than everybody else.
posted by clawsoon at 6:21 AM on July 14 [6 favorites]


I let someone repeatedly call me by the wrong name on a phone call yesterday without correcting them. It wasn't because I was confused about my name but because I needed to steer the conversation toward some questions that I needed answered and didn't want to derail things.

I wonder if some of the reaction isn't confusion on the part of the respondent so much as cultural constraints related to politeness/not correcting someone.
posted by evidenceofabsence at 6:47 AM on July 14 [6 favorites]


There's a movie where one character is played by two different actresses in different scenes. I remember being confused for a bit, but because the movie was treating her as the same character, I decided I had failed to recognize her for some reason.

I also think people's ability to notice a deception depends a lot on whether they anticipate a potential motive to the deception. If you're doing a study and get my answer wrong, you're ruining your own study. It's not really my job to be vigilant on this point.
posted by RobotHero at 7:18 AM on July 14 [1 favorite]


I suspect I have enough undiagnosed facial blindness that I don't understand this entirely. But, if a survey asked me to say words about architecture I love... I would say words. I would say very similar words about architecture I only kind of like.

Participating in a study with the assumption that one will be deceived is probably something one mostly learns as a penniless college student.
posted by eotvos at 7:53 AM on July 14


This reminds me of the study where an individual subject would be put in a room with a bunch of actors all pretending to also be subjects, and then the researched would ask a question with an obviously right answer, like, which of these two very different lines is longer? And the actors would all go around the table giving the wrong answer. So guess what the subject would say. (And then report feeling tremendous stress).

I would expect at least some of these people to know something was wrong but to feel tremendous social pressure to go along with the gaslighting researcher. This study exploits that vulnerability and, for the people who don't realize there was a switch, exploits their trust.
posted by prefpara at 8:12 AM on July 14 [1 favorite]


I get the impression from many comments here that people are trying to make the point that this experiment does not tell us much about how the typical human mind works because the subjects where stressed, on the spot, under social pressure...

That is reassuring, since in real life I never have to make decisions or justify my acts when stressed, on the spot, or under social pressure /s
posted by Dr. Curare at 9:05 AM on July 14 [6 favorites]


I'm just going along with everybody else's opinions in this thread. I don't remember what my initial opinion was.
posted by clawsoon at 9:19 AM on July 14 [7 favorites]


I get the impression from many comments here that people are trying to make the point that this experiment does not tell us much about how the typical human mind works because the subjects where stressed, on the spot, under social pressure...

I would say that it doesn't tell us much because the interviewee has little reason to be adamant about the outcome, which means it tells us little about how humans interact when they do care about the outcome. Do this in real life - switch their spouse, and then tell us the results.

And that it exploits trust and social pressure, but we already knew that people changed their opinions due to social pressure. We went to high school.

It's been mentioned this is applicable to politics, but come on it's 2021, people don't vote for actual policies, they vote for their people.
posted by The_Vegetables at 9:29 AM on July 14 [2 favorites]


Was there a year in which people did vote on policies?
posted by biogeo at 10:49 AM on July 14 [3 favorites]


it doesn't tell us much because the interviewee has little reason to be adamant about the outcome, which means it tells us little about how humans interact when they do care about the outcome. Do this in real life - switch their spouse, and then tell us the results.

This is it exactly. It's a lot easier (and quite a lot more meaningless) for an experiment to prove I'm mistaken about which random face I picked after five seconds' inspection and why, than to prove I'm mistaken about which political candidate I'm voting for and why.

Pater Aletheias posted a link upthread to this TEDx talk which explains in greater detail, and in its most sensational/punchy segment, that speaker tells us that people tend to moderate their political views when tricked by pollsters switching their answers to political questionnaires. THAT was the strongest, most meaningful experiment mentioned in this category of experiments, and even that was total bullshit.

If a questionnaire purporting to determine my place on the political spectrum asks me, "Do you agree to some extent with this [obvious right wing hot button issue worded in a tame way]?" I will be tempted to answer in a an extremist way and say "no", even if I do technically agree "to some extent". I would answer under the assumption that the people who framed the questionnaire are bad at their job, and I don't want their stupid study to misrepresent my quite firmly left view as "somewhat" agreeing with this obvious right wing hot button issue.

A large component of social interaction is trust between the interacting parties. What do I think they're driving at? Do I suspect their motives? Do I believe my answers could be misused to support groups I do not want to support? Do I trust their judgment, their intelligence, their ability to understand exactly what they're asking? Does it seem like they're careless with words and do not understand grammar/verbal nuances/etc. and as a result they might be asking me one thing while actually meaning to ask something else?

Almost every single poll or study I have participated in, the answers to these questions were not favorable to the pollsters. 90% of the time, I'm forced to answer not with the actual correct answer to their question, but with the answer that I believe they are attempting to get from me in their very inept way.

So let's say I answered as an extremist "hell no", and the trickster switched my answer to "yeah, sure", then I would believe I had simply answered the question technically correctly the first time around because I slipped up and failed to remember I was talking to people who are very bad at their job when I was answering that particular question.

I'm seriously not trying to brag about my own smarts here. It's just that people who write poll questions are truly bad at writing questions in an unambiguous, clear, meaningful way.

Take, for example, the sample question I started with above from that TEDx talk:

>>>>Large scale government surveillance of email and internet activity should be permissible as a means to combat international crime and terrorism. Do you agree to some extent with this statement?

Who the fuck asks such a thing in such a way in order to determine where you fall on the political spectrum?

The statement is extremely broad and inexact. It makes no reference to a whole host of factors which materially impact any reasonable person's position on the issue. If the surveillance was exclusively conducted on international internet activity (not on citizens), if there was complete transparency in due process for everyone targeted by this surveillance, if there was a strict warrant requirement and not even rubberstamped warrants but proper ones, if there were robust checks and balances, if there were public oversight and accountability for the agencies tasked with surveillance, if there were no offshore detentions nor CIA black sites...

...why, under that interpretation, Edward Snowden himself would agree with the statement TO SOME EXTENT.

So in order for that particular polling question to have any utility in placing me on the political spectrum, I must assume that the interpretation of the statement with which I agree with TO SOME EXTENT is the wrong interpretation. The correct way to interpret the statement must be to interpret it in such a way that I cannot agree with it to ANY extent. Otherwise that statement is useless in distinguishing between political stances.

It's like a snake swallowing its own tail. The incompetence of the writer of that statement & question forces me to lie in order to truthfully represent my views.
posted by MiraK at 11:47 AM on July 14 [9 favorites]


Que es mas macho?
posted by Piso Mojado at 3:38 PM on July 16


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