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Jack comments on The Amanda Knox Test: How an Hour on the Internet Beats a Year in the Courtroom - Less Wrong

42 Post author: komponisto 13 December 2009 04:16AM

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Comment author: Jack 29 December 2009 09:03:34AM 3 points [-]

One of the comments about the photos was mine I believe. I tried to avoid the photos of both Knox and Kercher (though I failed spectacularly). The fact that Knox is pretty and has a cute smile is worth updating on, perhaps. But for me it would be better to be told those facts rather than figure them out by staring at pictures. Millions of years of evolution have made attractive girls my age more bias inducing than just about anything else in my life. For the lonely I imagine the effect is considerably more dramatic. Surely we don't think the men who wrote Knox letters telling her how beautiful they thought she was are seeing things clearly and objectively.

And everyone is programmed to have their protection instincts kick in on the sight of a young, baby- like face (this is why the facial expression of fear resembles the face of a baby).

Comment author: RonnyRaygun 10 January 2010 09:02:49PM *  1 point [-]

Hello, everyone, my first post, and while I'm not sure it will be seen as entirely rational, here it is anyway :)

I don't know if attractive girls of Amanda Knox's age are more bias inducing. I would tend to think that cute faces do make people feel a certain protective, nurturing instinct. I also think, however, that SforSingularity has a point. I haven't seen any evidence to back it up, but I believe it is rare for "cute" girls to commit violent murder without severe provocation. That's not to say it doesn't happen.

From personal observation, it seems that people who look agressive are more likely to be agressive. Would this be due to the balance of testosterone / oestrogen in the womb, throughout childhood and adolescence, and into adulthood? It would be interesting to find out if studies have been done to prove or disprove this theory. Also, I certainly believe that the above assertions appear to be true in the animal kingdom. Agressive looking animals, almost without exception tend to be more agressive predators. We, both as individuals and as a species, are animals so I see no reason why the same shouldn't apply to us.

Finally, I recently read a study concerning the domestication of dogs. Dogs are known to have evolved from wolves (they can still interbreed very sucessfully) and the hypothesis was that humans selected the most docile wolves and bred them, as they would make better companions and would be easier to train.

To test this, a study was carried out on Russian Silver Foxes. For the last fifty years the most docile foxes have been selectively bred. The current generation is now incredibly docile, and actively seeks out human companionship, but more importantly, they look cute (i.e. they bring out a protective, nurturing instinct in their carers), and show little agression towards people or other animals.

Finally, I don't think any of the above has any bearing on the guilt of Amanda Knox. I am still absolutely amazed that a jury could have convicted her and Sollecito guilty based on the evidence provided.

Comment author: mattnewport 10 January 2010 09:23:18PM 2 points [-]

From personal observation, it seems that people who look agressive are more likely to be agressive. Would this be due to the balance of testosterone / oestrogen in the womb, throughout childhood and adolescence, and into adulthood? It would be interesting to find out if studies have been done to prove or disprove this theory.

I don't know of any studies specifically on aggression but this recent study found evidence that people are able to make significantly better than chance personality judgements based on a single photograph.

Comment author: ideclarecrockerrules 10 January 2010 09:29:46PM 2 points [-]

Signaling may play a significant role in this.

Comment author: orthonormal 16 January 2010 03:43:54AM 0 points [-]

As may microexpressions and other things of which we're not often consciously aware. This doesn't go to the level of a single photograph, but the (badly-named) truth wizards can "observe a videotape for a few seconds and amazingly they can describe eight details about the person on the tape."

We communicate more than we think.

Comment author: lispalien 25 March 2010 06:22:23AM 0 points [-]

I followed this link, and found the blog of one of the "truth wizards" from the study. She writes about the Amanda Knox case. It seems to entirely focus on Amanda Knox.

Comment author: komponisto 25 March 2010 05:44:06PM *  5 points [-]

This has been mentioned before; I'll reiterate my reaction in more detail here.

First of all, there is very little "Truth Wizard" analysis of Amanda Knox on that blog (whatever one thinks about the strength of such evidence in the first place). There are several posts about the case, but in only one of them does the author actually attempt to apply her own "lie-detecting" skills to Knox. (In particular, the most recent post on the case just consists of the author's commentary on someone else's argument that Knox is a sociopath; contrary to orthonormal, there is no claim by the author that she herself has detected sociopathy.)

The one post where the author does analyze Knox concerns her statement at Guede's trial, of which only audio (not video) is available. (Of Knox's videotaped testimony at her own trial, the author says: "...without hearing the questions asked of Knox, it is impossible to identify if she is lying." -- emphasis added.) Thus, there is no data about facial expression, which is apparently an important component of the author's technique. Hence confidence in this analysis must be presumably be lowered from what it would be if the author were working from a video recording.

But in any case, the reasoning in that post is awful. To the extent the author is skilled in detecting lies, she is obviously not particularly skilled in explaining how she arrives at her conclusions. Here is an example:

Does this make any sense? She couldn't remember because she was tired? It was the middle of the night? Does anyone believe this is a good reason for a lack of all memory? When Amanda is telling us this, a year has passed from the crime, so why doesn't she elaborate more in this statement? Why isn't she setting the record straight for the judge here and now?

The author seems to be expecting Amanda's memory of an incident to improve over time. Now, I'm not an expert on memory, but this is directly contrary to my understanding of how it works. In fact, (to invoke my own memory here) I distinctly recall Eliezer mentioning once that memories are re-created each time we remember something. If this is true, it implies that memories -- even if they become more vivid! -- would become less entangled with reality over time, not more; which is anyway what you would expect from....physics.

Here is another, well, "red flag", concerning Knox's account of being hit on the back of the head by a police officer:

So, what ended up happening was.... the fact that I had been pressured so much, and I was....(sigh), I was hit in the back of the head by one of the police officers...who said she was trying to make me...help me remember the truth.

She was pressured so much that she was hit on the back of the head? Does that make sense? Why does she change "make me" which is a strong statement to "help me", which is much softer? I find this odd. If someone is hitting me on the back of the head, they aren't "helping me" do anything. They are making me forcefully and brutally react. Why aren't her emotional memories matching her story?

The author completely misses the obvious interpretation (in the absence of prejudice), which is that the phrase "make me" reflected Amanda's emotional interpretation of the situation, but that she corrected it to "help me" in order to more accurately recount what the officer(s) actually said!

This kind of shoddy reasoning is, I regret to say, characteristic of the author's (rather limited) discussion of the case. Whatever truth-detecting skills she may possess, I don't think her posts have provided us with very much useful information at all.

Finally, I will point out that the author (who by the way links to True Justice but not to any pro-Knox site) claims not to have made an incorrect judgement in 5 years...and yet now lists this case among her "successes"! Obviously, that's more than a bit problematic. (It should be noted that not only is the appeals process ongoing, but the conviction only intensified the controversy, if anything.)

Comment author: komponisto 16 January 2010 03:58:07PM 0 points [-]

Link (1:44) for those interested in trying the video experiment on themselves in the present context.

For a much more extended sample, see here.

Comment author: Jack 10 January 2010 09:44:39PM 1 point [-]

Welcome! Feel free to introduce yourself here.

Comment author: DanArmak 10 January 2010 10:24:53PM 0 points [-]

my first post, and while I'm not sure it will be seen as entirely rational [....]

And then:

I haven't seen any evidence to back it up, but I believe [doesn't matter what exactly....]

Belief without evidence - that's irrationality, right there. You may be misunderstanding the meaning of "evidence" - especially as that word is used in this community.

Comment author: Jack 10 January 2010 10:32:46PM 0 points [-]

I assume he means studies or 'scientific' evidence (as if there were some other kind).

Comment author: DanArmak 10 January 2010 10:39:22PM 0 points [-]

The other kind is rational (Bayesian) evidence. That's what most people here mean by unqualified "evidence", I think.

Comment author: Jack 10 January 2010 11:02:36PM 0 points [-]

Scientific evidence is Bayesian evidence, no? I was just implying that I didn't think there was a special category of evidence gathering delimited as 'science'.

Comment author: Technologos 10 January 2010 11:14:37PM 0 points [-]

Best I can tell, Science is just a particularly strong form (/subset) of Bayesian evidence. Since it attempts (when done well) to control for many potentially confounding factors and isolate true likelihoods, we can have more confidence in the strength of the evidence thus obtained than we could from general observations.

Comment author: Jack 10 January 2010 11:28:57PM 0 points [-]

Yeah, though a lot of science is just building localized, domain specific ontologies (here's what kinds of fish there are, here's what kind of stars there are etc.) and I'm not sure this kind of scientific knowledge is much better than observations you or I make routinely. Also, some evidence gathering is every bit as powerful as science (or more so) and yet is rarely counted as a science ( advanced sports statistics or marketing studies for example).