Sunday, January 02, 2011

Best of June 2007

Childrearing advice I had since forgotten. Excellent comments from Ben and Erin, who now work with teenagers.

Is more time off a form of wealth?

I puzzle over why people believe negative urban legends about Republicans more than Democrats. The commenters answer.

Rethinking the Great Depression. Not that I did this marvelous rethinking. I just comment and then link.

When schools favor girls so much, for so many years, are they really doing them a favor?

We segregate by age socially.

The post where I discover that pictures of ABBA or flamingos drive up traffic. I may switch to meerkats or prairie dogs. Instead of the flamingos, that is. There's no replacement for ABBA.

Is extreme anti-catholicism still out there?

I put some energy into challenging two common myths: Money-grubbing Americans, and Christians fighting wars of religion.

Not linked, but also in June 2007: Takedowns of Bill McKibben, crummy hymns, and updates on 60's and 70's pop musicians.


Dr X said...

"I puzzle over why people believe negative urban legends about Republicans more than Democrats. The commenters answer."

I don't follow how the link supports the statement that people believe urban legends about Republicans more than Democrats. You measured differences in the veracity of rumors reported to snopes, not the extent to which these rumors were believed by the general public. The commenter with whom you agree attributed the disparity to self-selection bias.

My guess would be that partisans are generally more credulous when encountering rumors about opponents and less apt to believe negative information about those they support. The latter observation is supported by research (e.g., Drew Westen), the former is inference based on that research.

Assistant Village Idiot said...

I wrote a lengthy reply, which blogger ate. It was brilliant, I tell you.

I am too annoyed to recreate it at present.

Sponge-headed ScienceMan said...

My remedy for the-blog-ate-my-homework: I create in MS Word, save and then cut & paste into the blog-o-sphere. Ya just can't trust this dang technology!

Assistant Village Idiot said...

Sponge, I do that sometimes, and on comments I highlight and copy before I press "publish." When I remember, that is. About 50% of the time.

Assistant Village Idiot said...

I agree with Dr. X's third paragraph. General confirmation bias is well-known, and I'm glad I have readers who know of research in something near the area of specific confirmation bias I wrote on. That is a more solid principle than my question and speculation.

I thought at the time an exact count of positives and negatives, true-false would be tedious, both for the reader and for me, deciding ambiguous cases. I now wish I had kept the data, as I have only memory (the snopes data now has 3.5 years of additions).

Still, I remember that the trend of negative urban legends about Bush being false, the positive ones being true to be quite strong, in the neighborhood of 80-20. The opposite trend for Democrats was less pronounced, but still marked, say 30-70. At such levels, chance is an unlikely explanation. The data means something.

I stated what I thought the most likely explanation. But it's not a proof of that, not anything near. There are other possible explanations: The sample of snopes readers may skew young, and hence skew Democrat, or as Bethany suggested, the believers of urban legends may skew young, and thus skew Democrat. Or one groups might send in urban legends for confirmation or debunking at a greater rate.

Those are interesting in themselves and a bit related, but not the same thing as my offered hypothesis.

Or, Presidents and their parties may attract more legends, or more negative legends, than opposition parties, and the length of George Bush's presidency may have created more volume (Though the site started in 1995, giving Clinton roughly the same of years, it was far less frequently used in its early years). Or snopes could be a conservative site, devoting more energy to shooting down myths about conservatives. Yet I think that none of these, even in aggregate, are likely to get us to 80-20.

Dr. X's objection that there is no way of telling how widely each of these myths is believed is a good one.
Legend A might be believed by 40% of the population, legend B by 4%. We don't know, and I doubt that more than scraps of hard data are available on this. The threshold "made it to" is more than a little smudgy. Still, it is the only threshold we have, as snopes is the definitive site. I have confidence they have all or nearly all of the big ones, and most of the entries include some evidence that these are more than "some guy said": that the legend has appeared in recognised printed sources or been put forth by a prominent figure, or that it has circulated as an email since 2002.
So I still believe my hypothesis to be the most likely answer: that negative urban legends about Bush or Republicans are believed by more people than negative ones about Democrats, and that the former are more likely false and the latter more likely true. How many people are affected? I think it entirely reasonable to suppose that those believing urban legends in general are more likely to vote on impressions. 50% of Democrats would be a shocking number, and I don't claim that.
But if it is even 5% more common among Democrats than Republicans, given the closeness of elections, that would be big. And as I have had within my own experience liberals with graduate degrees offering some of these legends as true, I submit that there are many who believe at least a few of these.
That big media impressions - which photos are chosen, the slyness of headlines - were calculated against the right in general and Bush in particular has been amply documented, but I don't know how pervasive that is. Not everyone gets their impressions from those sources. You can still see it in force, though. You don't have to read a word of Time's article on Julian Assange to know what they want you to think. Just look at the photo of him, lit from just behind profile so that he has a nimbus around him.

Assistant Village Idiot said...

I'm betting Bush never got a nimbus, BTW.

jaed said...

I'm betting Bush never got a nimbus, BTW.

There actually are some. If you google for "Bush halo" images, a few of what appear to be news photos turn up. (These are mostly on majorly Bush-hating sites, and for the most part they either don't link to the original news stories or the said stories have linkrotted, so it's hard to be sure that any particular photo isn't a photoshop, though.)

Assistant Village Idiot said...

I should have specified: a nimbus in Time magazine.