Field of Science

Obama & I

Geoff Nunberg has a fantastic Fresh Air commentary posted on his website about the political misuse of linguistic information. Pundits frequently use statistical information about language -- the frequency of the word I in a politicians speeches, for instance -- to editorialize about the politician's outlook or personality.

That is to say, pundits frequently misuse statistical information. Most of what they say on the topic is nonsense. Nunberg has the details, so I won't repeat them here. There is one segment worth quoting in full, though:

To Liberman, those misperceptions suggest that Will and Fish are suffering from what psychologists call confirmation bias. If you're convinced that Obama is uppity or arrogant, you're going to fix on every pronoun that seems to confirm that opinion.

No comments: