Bias flipping coins or rolling dice, and is most

Bias is by definition a penchant
which is rooted in human nature and is therefore subjective. This is because
man has the ability of free will, hence everyone has specific feelings and
opinions which determine what decisions we take.

However, these feelings are,
most often than not when it comes to bias, wrong and preconceived without any
examination; this is at the heart of the fallacy of the maturity of chances: the mistaken assumption
that an event which has occurred more frequently than expected during some time
period will happen less frequently in the future, and vice versa.1

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Our subjective
opinions are born because of what we believe is right or wrong, and bias is
also defined as: “the action of supporting or opposing a particular person or
thing in an unfair way, because of allowing personal opinions to influence your
judgement” (Cambridge English Dictionary)2.

An example of this is the “O.J.” Simpson murder case: Simpson’s fame throughout
America posed severe problems to the integrity of the trial because of the
amount of support he received from his fans and from his defence team.

 

            The human sciences are a powerful
tool through which to analyse the fallacy of the maturity of chances and
specifically the psychology behind it. This logical fallacy typically involves
random processes such as flipping coins or rolling dice, and is most commonly
referred to in the context of gambling, hence its alternative name “the
gambler’s fallacy”.3
The reverse gambler’s fallacy involves the biased assumption that because a
particular event has happened frequently it will continue doing so.

The Ways of Knowing
which most naturally combine with this fallacy are Reason and Emotion– we use
Reason when we make a decision or an assumption, and almost always the
decisions we make are biased, based consciously on our past experiences in
life. However, to what extent can we trust decisions which have been made using
Reason? A logical fallacy such as the gambler’s fallacy denotes a fundamental
failure in the reasoning process which leads to an assumption being false4,
however the person experiencing this fallacy is truly convinced about what they
think. Does Reason always allow for a logical outlook on the information we
know? In the case of the gambler’s fallacy, it would seem perfectly reasonable
in the mind of the gambler (or anyone else), after an impressive streak of
improbable events, to bet against that event happening again. This was what
happened at the Monte Carlo Casino in 1913. However, this reasoning turns out
to be fundamentally wrong, because it is born through an incorrect human belief
that probabilities must balance out. So actually, reason has turned out to lead
to completely wrong conclusions and assumptions. This must mean that there is a
strong component of bias which is the main reason for why the person
experiencing this fallacy is so confident about their assumptions even though
they are unfounded– suggesting that reason breaks down as a rational way of
knowing if there are formal fallacies present in the argument.

Furthermore, the
Emotion involved in the process of assuming this fallacy is actually true
raises the question: how does Emotion filter bias? Antonio Damasio’s “somatic
marker hypothesis” claims that when we have to take rational decisions
entailing a number of alternatives, and when we are not clear on which
alternative to choose, we cannot take a rational decision and therefore our
emotions take over; according to this theory, the somatic markers are chemical
records which we access unconsciously and that are fundamental in deciding
which of the many choices is the most advantageous for us, making our emotional
response the driving force behind our rational decision5:
this can be seen in the gambler’s fallacy in the Monte Carlo casino scenario:
the gamblers, unable to fully comprehend the statistics behind the improbable
event, and faced with the uncertainty of which action to take next, decided
using their instincts that it would have been better for them to bet against
the ball falling in the black again, since this appeared to them as being a
very improbable event and they certainly would have had an advantage from
winning their bets, although this did not happen. So, although emotion can help
us understand why the gamblers would have made such a decision, it certainly
does not provide a way of knowing which is truly objective, but rather an
unconscious manifestation of our wishes.

 

            The Area of Knowledge Ethics is a
powerful tool through which to explain the “O.J.” Simpson murder case. The NFL
player and actor was tried on two counts of murder in 1994, one of his ex-wife
Nicole-Brown Simpson and the other of a waiter, Ronald Goldman.6
However, O.J. Simpson’s case was not a normal case due to his fame throughout
the United States. Despite all the evidence, such as traces of blood left by
the murderer and DNA samples, Simpson’s verdict was that he was not guilty. A
particular aspect of this case was the fact that the jury had been changed
during the course of it. This is due to the emotional connection that certain
groups of people in America would have had either towards Simpson or against
Simpson: women would have connected emotionally with the victims, because
Simpson’s ex-wife suffered domestic violence, but the black community and
Simpson’s fans would obviously have sympathised with him. Eventually, the jury
ended up being composed of a majority of black men, and only a minority of
white men. In order to prove Simpson was not guilty, the jury accused the
prosecution, and in particular Mark Fuhrman, of racism.7
To what extent do emotions interfere with our view of the world, and how can
our emotions be exploited? Although the defence did not provide any direct
evidence for the non-guilt of Simpson, resorting to the accuse of racism and
the ostensible misconduct of the prosecution (the LAPD) proved to be the right
way of getting Simpson not guilty. The jury relied upon the fact that the
racial problems which have been rooted in the U.S. would encourage the black
community to rebel, feeling a strong connection with Simpson, and to sympathise
for him. A further example of the use of Emotion as a way to incriminate Simpson
is found in the magazine Time’s cover
of July 1994, in which Simspon’s face figures, but it is much more darkened
than usual, creating a frightening image of Simpson, possibly with the idea of
making him appeal less to the public and appear to be the criminal.8
Furthermore, the defence used Reason in order to establish whether Fuhrman was
actually racist, by resorting to the Fuhrman tapes as one of their most
valuable arguments for the defence of Simpson: from these tapes, it emerged
that Fuhrman was a racist person, undermining his credibility and his integrity
in the eyes of the American population. From the O.J. Simpson trial, it has
emerged than although we can know a lot of things through different ways, such
as our emotions or through reason, we can never entirely trust that what we
know truly is objective because our feelings might change our perception of
what we know, or of what we want to know.       

 

            In conclusion, it is fair to say
that throughout this essay I have developed an insight into the fact that
perhaps most of what we know or feel is actually not objective, but rather that
the Ways of Knowing can be flawed. But if through Reason we are not able to
detect bias (or, if reason creates bias, as in the gambler’s fallacy), does
this imply that we cannot trust logical arguments, since they could be biased? If
what we think we know today is actually wrong (such as the idea of gravity
postulated by Aristotle) then perhaps the information we know really is biased,
as we have no rational way of proving with absolute certainty that it is true.

What has also emerged is
that Emotion can morph the absolute truth into something we believe is true
because we are strongly attached or convinced about it: that anyone can find
their own way of gathering information, based on an emotional level, which can
also be false: but, since everyone feels emotions, should we doubt the
knowledge others have in fear of it being too influenced by their emotions?
These two WOKs are significant because from these two real-life examples they
appear to be flawed, meaning that, to a good degree, most of what we know is
conditioned by a component of bias and is not truly objective.

1
Lehrer,
Jonah. How we decide. Mariner Books/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt,
2010, files.cnblogs.com/files/E-WALKER/HowWeDecide.pdf

2
“Bias
Meaning in the Cambridge English Dictionary.” Cambridge Dictionary,
dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/english/bias.

3
“Gamblers
fallacy.” Gamblers fallacy – RationalWiki, rationalwiki.org/wiki/Gamblers_fallacy.

4
Dunn,
Michael. Poor reasoning and fallacies (10th May 2013).

theoryofknowledge.net. http://www.theoryofknowledge.net/ways-of-knowing/reason/poor-reasoning-and-fallacies/ Last accessed: 8th January
2018

5
Dunn,
Michael. The relationship between emotion and
reason (10th May
2013). theoryofknowledge.net. http://www.theoryofknowledge.net/ways-of-knowing/emotion/the-relationship-between-emotion-and-reason/ Last accessed: 8th January
2018

6
Ford,
Andrea, and JIM NEWTON | TIMES STAFF WRITERS. “12 Simpson Jurors Are Sworn In :
Trial: The eight-Woman, four-Man panel is predominantly black. Fifteen
alternates will be added in coming weeks.” Los Angeles Times, Los
Angeles Times, 4 Nov. 1994, articles.latimes.com/1994-11-04/news/mn-58609_1_prospective-jurors.

7
Mydans,
Seth. “Simpson Is Charged, Chased, Arrested.” The New York Times,
The New York Times, 17 June 1994,
www.nytimes.com/1994/06/18/us/the-simpson-case-the-fugitive-simpson-is-charged-chased-arrested.html.

8
“O.J.’s
Darkened Mug Shot.” Museum of Hoaxes,
hoaxes.org/photo_database/image/darkened_mug_shot/.