Weekly Roundup 35

It has been a very well rounded week, with discoveries ranging from materials to frozen volcanoes. I also discovered a scientific paper published a few years ago with a very poignant conclusion. Information about a study performed was given to 1111 people (a comically coincidental number). This study was on the effect of gun control on crime rate, as this study was done in America this is a very contentious issue. For the study two cities were divided up into regions and crime was observed in these regions. One city was in California, with a strictly implemented restriction on firearms, the other in Texas. These are the results:

The Californian city was larger and was divided into 298 zones. With the gun restriction 223 of these zones had a decrease in crime and 75 had an increase.
For the Texan city, with 128 zones, 107 areas were found to have a decrease in crime and 21 had an increase.
So, Reader, how was crime rate effected by gun control? It should be quite simple to see. However many people in the study couldn’t; simply lacking the mathematical skill. The interesting thing is that people with no mathematical aptitude often guessed that the restrictions had decreased crime as 223 was a bigger number then 107, but actually 223 is a smaller percentage and so overall crime increased in this city. It was not only those with no maths ability that got it wrong, it was also those who believed gun restrictions work. They looked at the data assumed it matched their belief and didn’t bother scrutinising it further. People who didn’t believe that restriction work generally did the “math” and came to the right conclusion. Of course this study was completely fake, and so the data was reversed to imply gun restrictions didn’t work at first glance and now those not believing in gun control were making the mistake of confirming their bias. The same numbers were also used for two inverse medical studies, for which the group had no preconceived bias, which were sent to last half of the sample group to test the expected rate of understanding. All four studies are represented below:

the four problem scenarios presented in the study
Thank you to motherjones.com for the helpful annotations

This confirmed that people really were letting their bias determine how they viewed the data. When it appeared to agree with them they were happy, and when it appeared to disagree they were willing to look further into it. We would hope that all scientists and researchers are above such bias, but the question is are you? When you first saw the data, when I presented it as real, what was your thoughts? I hope you came to the right conclusion.
Until tomorrow, goodnight.


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