Thursday, June 9, 2011

Confirmation Bias Among the Politicians

Watching the news, it is easy to arrive at the belief that all right-wing Republican male politicians are actually closeted homosexuals, and now it is easy to believe than any Democratic male in a position of power is going to be very generous with his actual penis (Clinton, Edwards) or virtual (Weiner).  We are seeing many ponder whether any male with power will philander (is that a verb?), with Tiger Woods seeming to prove that better than anyone else since Wilt Chamberlain. 

The problem here is that we will not notice all the non-stories.  Not all men are serial cheaters.  Not even all powerful politicians or athletes.  While opportunities abound as one gets more powerful (I would guess, having no real power), not all males succumb to temptation.  And our view is very distorted because the most salacious stories get far more attention.  Just as we think there is more crime, more war, more ethnic conflict and more other stuff that makes the news, there is probably more adultery featured in the media than experienced by the average male, even the average powerful male. 

To say that we will not have such character collapses if we had more female politicians in positions of power practically begs me to study Norway and other countries with many powerful female folks (something about proportional representation leads to, um, proportional representation in gender).  The problem will remain that we will only have sketchy numbers for the positive outcomes (that is, those who cheat) and not much in the way of non-events.  I wonder if the methodologists can handle this. 

No comments: