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Life at № 42

A Tildeb Moment: The dangers of interpretation bias

bias

As I said a few days ago, this blogging thing is fascinating. Yesterday Tildeb was pointing out in one of his comments the dangers of interpretation bias. That is, when an individual hears/reads a statement, and the statement is then interpreted through a lens that distorts its intent. This can be negative or positive (but tends to be negative)- and to a reasonable degree it’s a natural process.  The operating word being reasonable.

Let me give an example: a group of people are sitting together having lunch in a restaurant. One says: “I don’t think I’d like to live in an apartment. I need a bit of privacy and the dogs need a garden to play in.” Another person at the table answers with “I think you’re anti-social, and you think you’re better than everyone else.”

Or

One person says to another: I never wear yellow because it doesn’t suit my complexion. A lover of the colour yellow responds aggressively – this happens because the listener in both cases has taken what in effect is not a statement about them and interpreted it through a lens where it’s transformed into a personal attack on their being.

As the internet has grown in the past decade, and people don’t have tone, nuance and facial expressions to counterbalance the words they’re reading, interpretation bias seems to be becoming the norm for interaction. In that sense the use of language is being damaged enormously because various groups are attempting to create sweeping categories of “no-go” words and areas.

The very mention of race/ethnicity/nationality is often automatically categorized as racism, even when there’s no qualitative aspect to the statement.

-Does your family have Indian origins?

– No, Pakistani, you racist.

Not racist. Perhaps generalizing, perhaps presuming based on certain physical features someone is a member of a particular ethnic group- but only racist if there’s an implication that being from one of those cultures makes an individual inferior (or superior) to another.

Being able to understand context is of primordial importance in communication. Without being able to grasp the intent of the author, we’re reduced to a world of black and white, and a very primitive and basic variety of interaction. What that creates isn’t a world of equality or respect, because those things only result from real knowledge and understanding, the kind we can’t achieve, for example, if any criticism of Islamic ideology is deemed Islamophobia. Or in an even worse example, when the LGBT community stopped talking about AIDS because we just didn’t want to be associated with it anymore. The consequences have not been good.

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32 comments on “A Tildeb Moment: The dangers of interpretation bias

  1. john zande
    December 28, 2015

    Tildeb is a precious gem… and he drives apologists nuts, which I adore 🙂

    Like

    • tildeb
      December 28, 2015

      There you go with your confirmation bias again, John.

      So what I hear you saying is that I’m as thick as a rock and it is the case that I sparkle only when I’m rubbed the right way. You’re such a bully by making these oblique and negative references about me.

      I’m tough. I can take it. But some can’t and so I’ll appoint myself their champion.

      And so I have to ask, why do you feel the need to connect apologists with whom I have had dealings with an association to those who suffer from mental and emotional dysfunction? Your cavalier use of the term ‘nuts’ stigmatizes those (of us because I’ve also appointed myself an honourary member of the selected group) who suffer from these dysfunctions through no choice of our own. Only assholes do that, donchaknow, and we really should ban assholes to first protect and then promote freedom of speech by the disenfranchized group.

      See how that line of reasoning works?

      Oh, wait a sec… how can any of this be my creation, my fault? Aren’t you supposed to be the problem here.- at least in my own projections – because you used a no-no trigger word? How can my stated concern for the ‘less fortunate’ (those who are ‘nuts’) be seen as anything other than representative of my obvious caring and compassionate and championing character? Smearing your complimentary intentions to suit my championing of a stigmatized group doesn’t make me the Thought Police from the Language Division acting as an Enforcement Officer. No sir. Couldn’t possibly be me that is the problem here.

      Using this increasingly common line of reasoning makes me part of the Regressive Left so busy tilting at ‘acceptable’ windmills – seeking and imposing on natural allies what is and is not ‘approved’ to make minority group members feel safe and snuggly and trigger-warned from those who enact micro-aggressions against them – that I end up enabling exactly that I think I’m fighting against.

      Thanks for your esteem, John. You certainly have mine and admiration for having done far more stirring up the angst of apologists and faithesists than I can ever hope to achieve. You write better, too.

      Liked by 2 people

      • docatheist
        December 28, 2015

        That was impressive and highly instructive!

        Liked by 3 people

      • Mr. Merveilleux
        December 28, 2015

        Superb.

        Liked by 1 person

      • john zande
        December 28, 2015

        This ramble reminds me of Monty Python’s Page 72 (I think it was page 72?) in their Big Red Book, titled, WHY THIS PAGE IS BLANK, which proceeds to explain why, indeed, page 72 is blank with a marginless wall of words 🙂

        Liked by 3 people

  2. docatheist
    December 28, 2015

    Maybe this means we should learn to express ourselves more clearly “on paper”, as the expression goes. Better vocabulary, and not just denotations (strict definitions) but connotations (added implications) of the vocabulary we use, along with some form of empathy related to the readers’ various points of view, would help. On the other hand, this is probably what makes for great writers, and why they stand out. I dream of being such a writer, someday.

    Alternately, it must be appreciated that the world is a frustrating place for too many of us, nowadays, and some of us take that frustration, turn it to anger, and turn that anger against strangers, thinking it’s safe to do so, especially online. Hence, the source of manipulatively anger-inducing trolls. They are at the opposite end of the spectrum of writers, far opposite the great writers.

    Liked by 1 person

    • docatheist
      December 28, 2015

      subscribe

      Like

    • Mr. Merveilleux
      December 28, 2015

      We certainly do need to improve how we express ourselves, but that becomes moot if the listener ignores nuance and relies on a list where (otherwise) neutral words take on the weight of their own biases.
      Of course some words are/can be offensive, and knowing how to identify them is of fundamental importance to any debate. I posted this because I’m actually surprised at current generalized degree of misinterpretation of information.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. inspiredbythedivine1
    December 28, 2015

    Coming from a group that uses interpretation bias freely and regularly, I must say I’m interpreting your use of the words “interpretation bias” as a derogatory comment on those of us who use interpretation bias freely and regularly. Therefor, I must say, I’m interpreting this whole post in such a way as to make it fit my preconceived notion of what I thought it was going to say based solely on its title and the use of the words “interpretation bias” written within it. Thus, I can only interpret your meaning to miss MY interpretation of your meaning because you had no way of knowing what my interpretation would be when reading what you wrote. And that, my friend, is a boo-boo on your part. Additionally, because I think the way I interpret things is the CORRECT way of interpreting things, my interpretation of what you’ve written is true, and the actual meaning behind what you wrote is not. Lastly, if you interpret this reply in any way but the exact way I wrote it, without bias, and/or intentional confusion, you’ll be interpreting it incorrectly. Finally, if only more people saw everything my way, there’d be no confusion anywhere, ever. In conclusion, I’d like to say, thank you, and please, refrain from interpreting this interpretation in any way but the only way one can interpret it: the right way. $Amen$

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Ruth
    December 28, 2015

    It certainly puts me in mind of a conversation I recently had. When what the person thought I said came back to me by way of their interpretation I thought, “Are we having the same conversation, here?” It’s exhausting sometimes. Especially when you esteem the person you
    re having that conversation with.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Mr. Merveilleux
      December 28, 2015

      Exhausting indeed. Especially because if you try to explain interpretation bias, people don’t usually take it very well. It’s adding insult to (perceived) injury 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Ruth
    December 28, 2015

    Wow. Perhaps it’s my mad formatting skills which leads to misinterpretation of my words.

    Like

  6. Helen Devries
    December 28, 2015

    Put it down to a lack of instruction in the use of a language coupled with a solipsism which seeks gratification resulting in the need to interpret anything beyond a laundry list as having relevance to the reader’s self or the reader’s obsession with a cause or values whose merit lies in their adoption by the reader.

    Or, to be offensive about it, too many dumbos given validation by the clickbait policies of the online media.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. Clare Flourish
    December 28, 2015

    Of course it is better not to take these things as personal attacks, but I observe that when the ignorant comment on transsexual transition, they never say something like “I would not do that myself” but something like “That is not real/possible” or “no-one should do that”. There is widespread prejudice against us. I was looking at a blog which accused us of “homophobia, racism and misogyny”- well, the androphiles are homophobic because they should just accept they are gay men, not straight women; the gynaephiles are homophobic because they just want to make passes at the lesbians; all of us are racist the moment we talk of gender variance in other cultures, because that’s cultural appropriation, and we are misogynistic simply by existing. I could try harder to find a hugbox, but in our own groups too many people are sharing, “Ooo, look at what those nasty TERFs/ fundies/ conservatives are saying” and others go, “ooo, horrible…”

    Liked by 1 person

    • Mr. Merveilleux
      December 28, 2015

      In those cases the problem isn’t a specific word, is it? 🙂

      Like

      • Clare Flourish
        December 29, 2015

        “M-T”, though that is constructed deliberately to insult. “Transgendered males”.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Mr. Merveilleux
        December 29, 2015

        Absolutely. Designed to insult is in no way neutral.

        Like

      • Clare Flourish
        December 29, 2015

        Yet, bruised as I can feel, if someone is unthinking or ignorant about trans, that can seem like deliberately insulting.

        My friend thought I might begrudge her her £60,000 a year. Well, no. I think she has earned it; and it is important to me as to see myself as active, making choices, not just washed down the drain. I don’t begrudge another friend her Epstein bronze head. I love it, it is very beautiful. But if I were ticklish about living in a rented flat- hearing about someone’s lovely house might get wearing.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Mr. Merveilleux
        December 29, 2015

        The *ticklish* aspect is my concern. I remember being at a dinner party in 2013 and people were comparing aeroplanes- as in the private variety. I whispered to Mike that we were the only people at the table who didn’t have one 🙂 In fact we’d arrived at that party in a car that on occasion made terribly rude-sounding noises. I thought it was all very funny.
        Ideally, we should aim for non-comparison, non-competition, which is unfortunately the opposite of what society teaches.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Clare Flourish
        December 29, 2015

        I was on the bus, and people were comparing stories about how beastly the Department for Withholding Payment had been to us. It’s an odd life. Love.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Clare Flourish
        January 1, 2016

        You might be interested in the Radio 4 programme The Future of Leadership on empowering people, building teams, and less hierarchical leadership.

        Like

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This entry was posted on December 28, 2015 by in activism and tagged , , , , , , .
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