Monday, November 24, 2014

Experimenter Bias and Shocking Videos

A couple of posts ago I linked to a couple of videos of a reporter waving an ISIS flag at Berkeley campus.  I thought it was, and still think it is, an interesting experiment.  But what strikes me as perhaps the biggest flaw in the experiment is possible bias on the part of the experimenter. He is a reporter who probably is trying to make a name for himself. The best way to do this is by filming very interesting videos. And one way to do this is to film what appear to be results opposite of what we would normally expect. Thus, showing video of people not reacting to his waving an ISIS flag would be the result he would want to attain. And this could be easily achieved. Even if 95% of the people who walked by stopped to express negative comments about his actions, all he has to do is edit them out and show only the 5% who did not react. I'm not saying that this is what he actually did. It could be exactly what he claims happened - no negative reactions whatsoever. The problem is, since he would have a motive to make an interesting video, unless we know him to be a person of high ethical character, we should be careful about the conclusions he wants us to draw about his experiment.

What we do know is that some people at Berkeley tweeted negative reactions to the ISIS flag-waving.

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