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I See Psychology… Everywhere

The Myth of the Down Low

Nice piece in Slate about the myth of the down low.  For the unfamiliar, “on the down low” is a term used to describe an apparently heterosexual man (typically African American) who lives a secret second life as a gay man.  He may have a family who doesn’t (or does) suspect, but, for various reasons, he does not reveal his orientation.

What I like about this article is that it exposes the often irrational ways in which people latch onto a relatively unusual event and turn it into a phenomenon.  Illusory correlations come to mind here, where we see a relationship between two factors that are really pretty rarely linked.

The articles author,

It also helps that the Down Low is the sort of threat that white commentators of all political stripes like to condemn. Conservatives get to disparage black people’s inherent amorality (a band of men is endangering their families to have sex with other deceptive men), liberals can attack our inherent homophobia (the black community is so thuggish that the men can’t even admit to being gay), and everyone gets to agree that black America is, in a nutshell, a nuthouse. In short, shaking your head over the DL is the perfect way to shake your head over how awful it is to be black.

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12 March 2007 Posted by | Stereotyping, Prejudice, & Discrimination | Leave a comment

The Psychology of the NCAA Tournament Office Pool

The NCAA tournament is my favorite sporting event.  I love college basketball for a lot of reasons, and, between you and me, this Thursday and Friday will prove to be rather unproductive, as I watch the scores come across the wire and try to keep up with the chances of my Kansas Jayhawks!

Here’s a nice article in the NYTimes that reports some of the research behind the office pool picks.

“What people don’t realize is that a lot of times, if you bet on a No. 1 seed, you’re out of the pool after the first weekend,” said Andrew Metrick, a finance professor at the University of Pennsylvania who has studied pools. “Your team won, but you’re out” — because you missed a few other games that others with the same choice of national champion did not miss.

In order to be accurate in your picking, you need to pick some upsets, because they will happen.  Problem is, you don’t know when or where they’re going to happen.  This is a real example of the hindsight bias, as I often find myself saying, “Oh, I knew that would be an upset,” even though I somehow didn’t bother to predict it in my bracket!

I tend to follow my heart for Kansas and try to follow my head for the rest, but frankly, I’m pretty bad at it, and when I do well, it’s usually because of a few lucky picks.

Enjoy the tournament, and GO ‘HAWKS!

12 March 2007 Posted by | Cognitive, Sports | Leave a comment