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Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Thomas Knoten's Commencement Speech

My student Tom Knoten, a former successful lawyer, served as a commencement speaker at this year's graduation ceremony.

Saturday, May 08, 2010

The Unreliability of Eyewitness Testimony: A Case Study

Eyewitness testimony is notoriously unreliable. This has been shown empirically on a number of occasions. In my introspection class last semester we decided to test this claim in a class experiment.

The class was attended by a real lawyer Tom, who was professionally trained to query eyewitnesses. Chris was assigned the role of police officer, Alex was assigned the role of juror, and Lisa, Jessica and Matt were assigned the roles of criminals and victims.

Tom, Chris and Alex were asked to leave the room. Lisa, Jessica and Matt were then told to go to the main office and plan a crime. They were also told to change their clothes and enter the room later wearing accessories, as they saw fit.

I then instructed the rest of the class to pretend that they were at a cafe. They were told to engage in real conversations with each other, as they would at a real cafe. They were furthermore asked not to pay any special pay attention to Lisa, Matt and Jessica, were they to enter the room, unless there was something special to pay attention to.

Jessica and Matt then entered the room, sat down, and I overheard them engage in a conversation about cats. Then Lisa entered the room, noticed Jessica and Matt and got terribly upset. An argument took place, and Lisa then stabbed Matt and ran away. One of the cafe patrons called the police on his cell phone. Chris then came and questioned Jessica and Matt (who survived the stabbing). He caught Lisa and then questioned her too.

Tom (the lawyer) interviewed victims, criminals, the police officer, and eyewitnesses. Then the trial began. Tom called and queried people, as he saw fit, one at a time. Finally Alex the juror was asked to decide which of the eyewitnesses was the most reliable.

Alex said that he thought Kristina was the most reliable eyewitness. Her report was clear and to the point. She also offered many details which were lacking in the other eye-witnesses' accounts. She looked self-confident and reliable and used very few modifiers of the sort "I believe", "I think", "probably", "could be", "might have".

As it turned out, Kristina was the least reliable eyewitness. She got the color of Lisa's shirt wrong, and there were various other inaccuracies in her story. Our class experiment had confirmed the existing theory: Eyewitness testimony is notoriously unreliable. What's more: We are unable to tell when it is.

All the eyewitnesses wrongly categorized the crime as a jealousy stabbing which involved a man (Matt), his new lover (Jessica) and his old lover (Lisa). In fact, Jessica and Lisa were lovers, and Jessica was cheating on Lisa!

Sunday, May 02, 2010

What Women's Butts Really Look Like

There has been a lot of discussion of whether Britney Spears's recent release of untouched versions of images of her half-naked body just is another case of "bourgeois body image feminism" and not the worthwhile struggle for "real gender equality".

But c'mon, you gotta give Britney credit for exposing her behind like this with cellulite and everything. Most women look like the gal on the right, not the gal on the left. The one on the left is the result of heavy photoshop brushing, not the real thing. Dream on guys.

Or better: stop dreaming. If you really want someone who looks like the girl on the left, you probably have pedophile tendencies cuz that's how a 10-year-old looks. Once the teen hormones kick in, fat cells naturally get filled, and they don't get filled evenly. Or maybe you should join an association for anorexic girls. If you are lucky, sick starving girls might look like that too (HT: Feminist Philosophers).

Saturday, May 01, 2010

Life and Work

I just love this picture. It's from Australia: Declan Smithies's 30 years birthday party and engagement party to Jenny. The other two in the picture are Rhiannon Long-Rabern and Holly Lawford-Smith. Leone Miller took the picture. God, I miss those guys. And yes, my hair is red. It changes color like leaves on a tree in autumn. Why is my hair red? Answer: I don't know. Why did I start the love blog? Answer: See my earlier post on stereotypes. Not all of us confuse career with life. Some of us have hobbies. I write on weird topics. That's my hobby. (love, I learned tonight, is a weird topic).