Research Bias

Kevin Drum makes a point that made my brain resonate:

Even as a joke this is inane, but in case you want to see what’s really happening this winter, here’s a NASA chart of global temps for January. As you can see, there are only two areas in the entire world that are colder than the 1951-1980 average: eastern Siberia and the American northeast, home to virtually the entire national press corps.  So naturally cold temps are getting lots of media play.

Here’s the thing… AFAIK, in research circles, this sort of bias or methodological error is so common I’m sure it has a name (though I am too lazy to look it up).  It’s is pretty simple:  You look around, and, assuming that the rest of the world is like what you see, you declare the rest of the world to be like what you’ve seen.  Problem is, there’s zero guarantee that what you see is representative of anything else.  This is the whole point of actually looking at data.

Someone should tell the national press corps.  Furthermore, I suspect this error is super-prevalent when it comes to things like, oh, say, the economy – and since the majority big-name TV reporters are upper-class, that is the point of view that the  economy gets reported on from.


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