Four dot points to end the chapter

  • • Confirmation bias and tunnel visions have been suggested as possible explanations for wrongful convictions.
  • • The deep roots of confirmation bias are not always made clear. Bayes’ rule is an optimal rule for updating one’s beliefs as new information comes to hand. A person might conclude far too soon that his or her hypothesis is correct. Divergences from this optimal updating of beliefs underlie biases such as confirmation bias. It is not just that people exhibit tunnel vision. It’s deeper than that. People do not always optimally update their beliefs in light of the available evidence.
  • • Information cascades can lead to similar problems. A cascade can start within a very basic setting and it can begin as early as decision-maker #3.
  • • Information cascades can be correct or incorrect, fragile or strong. A fragile but correct cascade is something that one must be careful not to break.

Notes

  • 1 Jelani Cobb in The New Yorker, April 19 2019.
  • 2 Snook and Cullen (2008, p.26) identify confirmation bias as one of several heuristics that constitutes tunnel vision. The others are the satisficing heuristic, the elimination-by- aspects heuristic and the ‘take the best’ heuristic.
  • 3 However, some of the measures might be so unobtrusive that they could be applied without fear of major disruption or negative consequences. For example, the basic task of preparing a schematic overview of the evidence, a simple sketch with pen-and-paper, may help reduce tunnel vision (Rassin 2018).
  • 4 Example adapted from Just (2014, pp.161—162).
  • 5 If a properly functioning piece of equipment revealed ‘alpha’ 30 percent of the time and ‘omega’ 70 percent of the time (instead of 10 percent and 90 percent), the revelation of ‘omega’ would lead to a more rapid increase in the prior probability.
  • 6 Lohmann (1994) argues that the collapse of communism in East Germany in 1989 was partly due to an information cascade.
  • 7 Kahan (1997).

References

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Kahan, M. 1997. Social Influence, Social Meaning; and Deterrence. Virginia Law Review, 83, 276—304.

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Risinger, M.D. 2006. Innocents Convicted: An Empirically Justified Factual Wrongful Conviction Rate. Journal of Criminal Law & Criminology, 97,761-804.

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Snook, B. Sc Cullen R.M. 2008. Bounded Rationality and Criminal Investigations: Has TunnelVision Been Wrongfully Convicted? In D.K. Rossmo (Ed.), Criminal Investigative Failures. Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press, pp.71-98.

Willinger, M. Sc Ziegelmeyer, A. 1998. Are More Informed Agents Able to Shatter Information Cascades in the Lab? In P. Cohendey, P. Llerena, H. Stahn Sc G. Umbhauer (Eds.), The Economics of Networks: Interaction and Behaviours. Heidelberg: Springer-Verlag, pp.291—305.

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