Friday, March 13, 2009

Judging Others

At Overcoming Bias, Robin Hanson states:

When evaluating someone intellectually, I tend to downplay their degrees, publications, affiliations, etc. and focus on how they handle themselves in intellectual conversation. But most academics have more prudish norms, and consider it rude to challenge prestigious visitors to thoughtfully discuss topics beyond their prepared speech. Thank goodness my favorite lunch partners share my imprudish tastes. :)

I wonder if his method of evaluating intellectual ability may introduce more bias than does checking out the speaker's degrees.

If someone has a fancy education or job, she demonstrates that she was at least able to accomplish something minimally substantial over time (except in rare cases). If you judge someone based on a single conversation, well- What if he was nervous? Sick that day? Expresses himself better through writing than via speech?

I'm still working out my general approach to judging others. Which is the most fair (and possible) strategy: Matthew 7:1 , Pirkei Avot 1:6, or regularly scheduled Bayesian Updates?

1 comment:

Ted said...

Perhaps the best approach is to refrain from judging people hastily. Snap judgments are inherently based on little information. Practically speaking, determination of a person's ability over a short time period is sometimes warranted (while interviewing someone for a job, for example). It is important to realize that the fewer "data points" one has for a given person, the larger the uncertainty. In that respect, I agree that demonstrations of ability over long periods of time (such as obtaining an advanced degree) should be weighted more heavily than singular events such as a conversation.