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Comment author: mark_spottswood 21 February 2012 07:19:56PM *  4 points [-]

A few comments:

  1. It is somewhat confusing (at least to legal readers) that you use legal terms in non-standard ways. Conflating confrontation with hearsay issues is confusing because making people available for cross-examination solves the confrontation problem but not always the hearsay one.

  2. I like your emphasis on the filtering function of evidentiary rules. Keep in mind, however, that these rules have little effect in bench trials (which are more common than jury trials in state courts of general jurisdiction). And relatively few cases reach trial at all; more are disposed of by pretrial motions or by settlements. (For some data, you could check out this paper by Marc Galanter.) So this filtering process is only rarely applied in real-world cases!

  3. Before suggesting that we should exclude evidence of low reliability, you should probably take more time to think about substitution effects. If lawyers cannot use multiply embedded hearsay, what will juries hear instead? Also, you would want to establish that juries would systematically err in their use of such evidence. It is not a problem to have unreliable evidence come in if juries in fact recognize its unreliability.

  4. I've recently spent some time thinking about how we might apply the scientific method towards designing better rules of legal procedure and evidence. It turns out to be trickier than you might think, largely because it is hard to measure the impact of legal rules on the accuracy of case resolutions. If you are curious about such things (and with apologies for blatant self promotion), you might want to read some of what I wrote here, particularly parts 2-4.

Comment author: CornellEngr2008 28 March 2012 03:33:24PM 0 points [-]

It is not a problem to have unreliable evidence come in if juries in fact recognize its unreliability.

I'm skeptical. After all, the anchoring effect isn't weakened by being reminded that it exists. It seems that anything the jury sees will influence their decision, and they will likely be unable to discount its influence appropriately to account for its unreliability (especially if its emotionally charged).

I've always been uneasy when the judge on some court TV drama sustains an objection or asks that something be stricken from the record, as if that means it's stricken from the minds of the jury so it won't influence their decision. We have good reason to believe that that's impossible - the jury's brains have been primed with a piece of argumentation that the judge has recognized is unadmissible. It's too late. At least, it has always seemed that way to me. What does the legal literature say about this?

Comment author: CornellEngr2008 02 January 2012 11:34:31PM *  8 points [-]

I was just making a simple factual observation. Why did some people think it was an argument in favor of regulation?

I've noticed that Argument by Innuendo is unfortunately common, at least in in-person discussions. Basically, the arguer makes statements that seem to point to some conclusion or another, but stops a few steps short of actually drawing a conclusion, leaving the listener to draw the conclusion themselves. When I've caught myself doing this and ask myself why, there are a few reasons that come up, including:

  • I'm testing my audience's intelligence in a somewhat subtle and mean way.
  • I'm throwing ideas out there that I know are more than one or two inferential steps away, and seeing if my audience has heard of them, is curious enough to ask about them, or neither and just proceeds as if I didn't say anything.
  • I want to escape the criticism of the conclusion I'm suggesting, and by making someone else connect the last few dots, I can redirect the criticism towards them instead, or at least deflect it from myself by denying that that was the conclusion that I was suggesting (even if it was).

Needless to say, this is pretty manipulative, and a generally Bad Thing. But people have sort of been conditioned to fall into the trap of Argument by Innuendo - to not look stupid (or "slow"), they want to try to figure out what you're getting at as quickly as possible instead of asking you, and then argue against it (possibly by innuendo themselves so they can make you look stupid if you don't get it right away). Of course, this makes it extremely easy to argue past each other without realizing it, and might leave one side bewildered at the reaction that their innocent-seeming statement of fact has provoked. I think that this has simply become part of how we reason in real-time in-person discussions.

(To test this claim, try asking "so what?" or "what's the conclusion you're getting at?" when you notice this happening. Note the facial expressions and tone you get in response. In my experience, either the arguer treats you as stupid to ask for clarification on such an "obvious" point, or they squirm in discomfort as their forced to state explicitly the conclusion that they were trying to avoid criticism for proposing, and may weasel into an entirely different position altogether that isn't at all supported by their statements.)

So, I'd venture to say that that's what's going on here - your audience heard your factual observation, interpreted it as laden with a point to be made, and projected that conclusion back onto you, all in the blink of an eye.

In response to comment by Annoyance on My Way
Comment author: [deleted] 18 April 2009 08:49:57AM *  8 points [-]


In response to comment by [deleted] on My Way
Comment author: CornellEngr2008 15 June 2011 04:30:32PM 2 points [-]

I think the sentiment you're trying to express is captured in simply upvoting the post you're in agreement with. If you have nothing to add, it's probably best not to make a comment.

Comment author: komponisto2 08 February 2008 01:33:59AM 2 points [-]

But if a definition works well enough in practice to point out the intended empirical cluster, objecting to it may justly be called "nitpicking".

You should probably put in a disclaimer excepting mathematics from this -- assuming that you agree it should be excepted. (That is, assuming you agree that "Aristotelian" precision -- what mathematicians call "rigor" -- is appropriate in mathematics.)

Comment author: CornellEngr2008 08 June 2011 04:49:53PM 4 points [-]

Mathematics is largely already excepted from the above discussion - this post is talking about empirical clusters only ("When you draw a boundary around a group of extensional points empirically clustered in thingspace"), and mathematics largely operates in a priori truths derived from axioms. For example, no one needs to do a study of triangles to see whether their angle all do, indeed, add up to 180 degrees - when that's not part of the definition of triangles, it follows from the other definitions and axioms.