Friday, June 26, 2009

The Fallacy of Accent Revisited

How many women are broken into the brothels of Lahore every month? How many women are trafficked into secular Pakistan and raped into whoredom?

We don't know.

But we know that one woman was whipped by the Taliban: and since this video was circulated throughout the world, it seemed that the Taliban are serial whippers.
This single video clip was enough to galvanise Pakistan public opinion against the Taliban, and in favour of the military action against men, women and children. M.J.Akbar devoted an entire column to refute there can be anything as a 'moderate Taliban' – on the strength of the solitary video clip.

Yet nobody has ever filmed the goings-on at the Lahore brothels.

Behavioural psychologists have dubbed this the "availability heuristic": "The availability heuristic tends to bias our interpretations, because the ease with which we can imagine an event affects our estimate of how frequently that event occurs. Television and newspapers, for example, tend to cover only the most visible, violent events. People therefore tend to overestimate incidents of violence and crime as well as the number of deaths from accidents and murder, because these events are most memorable (Kahneman, Slovic, & Tversky, 1982). As with all cognitive shortcuts, a biased judgment occurs, because the sample of people and events that we remember is unlikely to be fair and full."

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