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goldfish comments on Self-fulfilling correlations - Less Wrong

103 Post author: PhilGoetz 26 August 2010 09:07PM

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Comment author: goldfish 30 August 2010 05:31:43PM *  2 points [-]

You didn't talk about any self-fulfilling negative correlations. A volvo doesn't prevent accidents, just makes the accidents less deadly, so it may actually be the more reckless drivers that take them so they can continue to be reckless (this effect may be much smaller though) or parents that choose a safe car for their reckless teen. Another example is when seatbelts were introduced, the owners of cars with them became more reckless because they thought they were safer, and actually ended up in more accidents (though the death rate of drivers remained about the same because the seatbelts do actually offer protection, not just self fulfilling).

Maybe someone can think of better examples. I can imagine that these are hard to perpetuate though, because the concept that something is safer is often based on scientific evidence with proper selection, or real world evidence with distorted selection, but with a negative correlation, the distorted selection would show the safety device makes people less safe. You would have to have a good advertising team to overcome both the scientific and real world examples of your safety device. Either that or it really does make you slightly safer but the negative correlation effect would have to be strong enough to overcome that. But in either of these cases it isn't self fulfilling, because the concept isn't caused by the results, but either by actual benefit or advertising.

Comment author: Luke_A_Somers 13 February 2012 04:01:30PM 1 point [-]

This is raised briefly in the last paragraph before 'Applications to machine learning...'

Comment author: [deleted] 23 May 2016 06:54:02AM 0 points [-]

But does this mean that 'safer' and 'less safe' is meaningless for someone choosing a car? I mean, if I have never driven 'for real', without the instructor and with people I like very much sitting next to me, I do want a safer car; but I have no way to know if I am, on average, 'more reckless' or 'less reckless' than other drivers. And with all of these balancing effects, if I have previously found myself leaning towards buying a Volvo, now I have to doubt, vaguely, whether I want a Volvo because I actually think it would give me more leeway to drive poorly, which is, given my inexperience, even more dangerous. It would seem then, that not only 'safe' doesn't cut reality at its joints, but 'reckless' doesn't cut it, too, and I suspect that if we separate 'recklessness' into things like 'rileability', 'doggedness', 'attention', 'speed of reaction', whatever, they would turn out to not work that well... And how am I supposed to decide upon something as 'high level' as 'what car to buy'?

Comment author: Spectral_Dragon 15 February 2012 09:15:20AM 0 points [-]

Yes, as human beings we're great at compensating. When anti-lock brakes were introduced, it made it safer to drive. Accidents stayed the same, since people drove more recklessly - they were after all safer now, weren't they?