I remember seeing a talk of the concept of privilege show up in the discussion thread on contrarian views.

Some discussion got started from "Feminism is a good thing. Privilege is real."

This is an article that presents some of those ideas in a way that might be approachable for LW.

http://curt-rice.com/quotas-microaggression-and-meritocracy/

One of the ideas I take out of this is that these issues can be examined as the result of unconscious cognitive bias. IE sexism isn't the result of any conscious thought, but can be the result as a failure mode where we don't rationality correctly in these social situations.

Of course a broad view of these issues exist, and many people have different ways of looking at these issues, but I think it would be good to focus on the case presented in this article rather than your other associations.

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One of the ideas I take out of this is that these issues can be examined as the result of unconscious cognitive bias. IE sexism isn't the result of any conscious thought

In order to claim that our system 1's conclusions based on someone's sex, i.e., what you're calling "unconscious sexism", is indeed a bias you need to establish that it leads to false conclusions, as opposed to our system 1 merely noticing that a lot of things correlate with a person's sex. Nearly all discussions of "unconscious sexism", including the linked article, simply and falsely asserts that sex doesn't correlate with anything important. For example, the linked article says:

Increasingly, scientific evidence demonstrates that the sex of an individual can reliably predict some aspects of their career experience, i.e. there is evidence of systematic discrimination against women.

Observe that it doesn't even bother to mention the other explanation, that the sex of an individual correlates with traits, such as intelligence, relevant to his or her carrier. Despite the fact that we have good evidence that this correlation does exist.

My understanding is that the correlations in question persist, and are not small, when those other things are either controlled for or taken out of the picture. For example, here is an informal writeup of a PNAS article finding evidence of bias favouring male over female job applicants when everything about the applications was exactly the same apart from the name.

There are even clearer examples of gender bias on the unconscious level. The fact that women are hired at equal rates as men by orchestras if, and only if, the audition is behind a curtain and everyone enters barefoot so the hiring committee cant tell gender by footstep sounds is the most damning I can think of right now. Because that is a straight up test of competence at the only skill relevant for the job, and applicant genitalia still sway supposed experts unless extreme measures are taken to blind them to that factor. Basically, at this point there is such a huge pile of evidence that human beings are just completely incompetent at screening out utterly irrelevant factors that I would judge it sensible hiring policy in any field to have the job interview behind a curtain and a vocoder.

... Fuck it, I'm using that in a story. It fits right into a certain culture I'm building. ;)

4gjm8y
I would not recommend conducting hiring tests for an orchestra behind a vocoder :-). (Other than that: yes, I agree, except that actually conducting hiring interviews that way would probably actually lose more signal than it eliminated noise, at least in the fields I'm familiar with interviewing in. Alas.)
0[anonymous]8y
Just curious... What fields are those?
2gjm8y
Software development, engineering, mathematics (in industry rather than academia). The loss of signal could probably be eliminated in all of these, with some effort. The sort of thing I'm thinking of where signal would be lost by default is where you ask the interview candidate to design something, write a bit of code, sketch a system they worked on in the past, etc., on paper or whiteboard. If the candidate has to be behind a curtain, that's difficult to do and probably involves irksome extra latency (e.g., a system where they write or sketch whatever they want to and then step aside, and only then does the interviewer get to see what they did). You could work around this with computerized whiteboards -- the candidate sits in one room and the interviewers in another, both rooms have electronic whiteboards, and they are coupled so that anything written on one shows up on the other too. (Or by using something other than whiteboards that's easier to decouple in this way. For instance, for a coding task some kind of collaborative text editor may do better.)
0[anonymous]8y
I see. (I had guessed you were talking of people who have to directly¹ interact with perspective customers, so you have to know what they look and sound like in order to know what first impression perspective customers might get.) -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- 1. Of course what “directly” means depends on where you are; I hear there's a country where people will boycott a Web browser solely because of the political stance of the CEO of the company making it on a topic with hardly anything to do with software. ;-)
0gjm8y
Yes, that would be another example. But, I think, a different sort of example. Let's suppose that candidate A comes across better than candidate B in interview simply because of widely-shared prejudices affecting the interviewers. For the kind of job you describe, that (rather horribly) means that candidate A probably is better able to do the job than candidate B. (It might well be that the best thing overall is to try to stop people in that situation favouring A over B on account of prejudice anyway, in the hope that over time this reduces the overall level of prejudice and everyone is better off.)

when everything about the applications was exactly the same apart from the name.

Does that include e.g. the likelihood of the applicant going on maternity leave in the near future?

8Izeinwinter8y
There is a really nifty way to solve this, by the way. Do what the Norwegians do. Half of maternity leave accrue to the other parent and is non-transferable. That way career impact of child birth becomes gender neutral - for anyone married, anyways. And like all the best of feminist ideas, it is irreversible policy because it benefits both genders. Men get time of to spend some time with their kid, and women don't have to worry about potential employers shunning them out of fear of having them go on leave because potential employers cannot hire anyone without that risk attached. Well, post menopausal women, I suppose. Doesn't seem likely to become a dominant hiring strategy.
3Azathoth1238y
Of course, maternity leave isn't the only way in which women can chose family over career. Also, this kind of policy amounts to valuing "equality" for its own sake above everything else, like productivity.
2Izeinwinter8y
.. Norway has labor productivity 35 percent higher per hour worked than the us does. They work a bit less, so the country as a whole is only 27% percent richer than the US is. Yhea, this is really a policy that dings economic productivity. Also, basic logic: What is the contribution to the formal economy of a woman who can't find work due to gender discrimination?
4Lumifer8y
Sigh. Do you bother to check your numbers? In 2013 the productivity in Norway was 62.6 GDP/hour while in the US it was 57.5 GDP/hour (source [http://stats.oecd.org/Index.aspx?DataSetCode=PDB_LV]). And I bet that's the consequence of the fact that a large part of Norway's economy is offshore oil and gas which are highly capital intensive and so generate very high productivity. Note that in Sweden, a country with social policies broadly similar to Norway's but without the oil, the productivity is 45.0 which is noticeably lower than in the US and is close to the EU average. The country as a whole is much poorer that the US because it is much smaller. I suspect you meant things like GDP per capita which for Norway is indeed higher that for the US (again, because Norway has a small population and pumps a lot of oil out of the North Sea).
4Izeinwinter8y
I was using the OECD databases, except I was not using 2005 PPP to compare 2013 gdp. Which is what is in your link. Setting the exact same table to compare against the US as the hundred percent baseline gives a number for Norway of 130.2 Which isn't what I got from the table I was using, so obviously the OECD doesn't agree with itself at all times o,O Oh well. Further checking the OECD quickly, no, the lead isn't down to petroleum alone - absurdly high in all sectors, save agriculture. Which is mostly down to Norway being an idiotic place to grow crops. And that lead is growing, so it is not a legacy - their current policies are successes. If oil has anything to do with it I strongly suspect that it is via indirect political effects - No Norvegian politician can implement austerity or embark on a campaign to suppress wage growth due to the oil money, so the country doesn't shoot it's own economy in the knee on a regular basis like the rest of the west does. But never mind statistics. Do you have issues with the basic logic? "Policies that remove gender based barriers to employment are good for the economy, due to the basic fact of life that housewife is a ludicrously low-productivity job sector". Heck, near as I can tell, a good chunk of the wealth gain's of the past 50 years has mostly been the working out of the productivity implications of household appliances - 2 income households are possible because the electric stove, the refrigerator and the vaccum means keeping house isn't a full time job. Re: Being poorer than the US due to smaller size. That isn't how people use the word rich. Depending on which statistics you use, China has an economy which either is, or will shortly be, larger than the US one. Would you consider it reasonable to refer to China as richer than the USA once that absolute size becomes indisputable?
4Azathoth1238y
What do you mean "remove gender barriers"? Do you mean policies requiring companies to hire be "non-sexist" in their hiring practices etc.? Because if those practices increased productivity companies would use them anyway. Also have both spouses work tends to result in the couple having a lot fewer children. In fact in another thread [http://lesswrong.com/lw/kxb/nrx_vs_prog_assumptions_locating_the_sources_of/balj] people were complaining that they couldn't afford to have kids because they couldn't subsist on one income.
1Lumifer8y
I am sure they can subsist on one income, it's just that they don't want to.
0gjm8y
I don't think that distinction matters much to the point Azathoth123 is making. (Personally I'd put the family in that thread in the grey area between "couldn't subsist on one income" and "maybe could but it would be terrible". Husband and wife on $10k/year each. I wouldn't want to try supporting a family of three on $10k/year, though maybe it could be done if "supporting" means "living on the streets and barely managing to feed" or "scraping by using every bit of government-supplied assistance available".)
0Lumifer8y
I wouldn't want to support a family of one on $10K/year. But I think the context of this discussion is that the middle class feels the need for two incomes and so the wife works instead of being a housewife.
0[anonymous]8y
Unless there's some kind of PD-like situation whereby sexist hiring practices benefit your company to the expense of everyone else's.
-10TheAncientGeek8y
-1Lumifer8y
Link to numbers, please..? I am sorry, I'm going to mind statistics. You seem to like numbers when they support (or can be made to support) your predefined conclusion, but when it turns out your statistics are wrong or misleading you go "never mind". Yes, because you can't run a cost-benefit analysis without looking at costs. That is how people use the expression "country as a whole".
0[anonymous]8y
Is a ton of air as a whole denser than a gram of gold as a whole? IOW intensive quantities are intensive. Is “rich” an intensive quantity, like “dense”, or an extensive one, like “heavy”? Meh. I'd say it depends on the context, and in the context of Izeinwinter's comment I'd say it is clear which they meant.
1[anonymous]8y
And single men.
2Izeinwinter8y
Because an unspoken condition of employment that prospective employees must stay single is a management technique made of win. Errh.. Not. Good lord. would you want to manage a team made up of 100% celibate men? This is not a weakspot in the law, because it's not a runaround anyone sane enough to not already be bankrupt would attempt. It might on the margin inspire people to hire more people in their forties and fifties, - people who have had any children they are likely to have, but from the point of view of the government, that's also not a flaw, but more of a "Secondary benefit free with just legislation".
5Lumifer8y
They make awesome startups. Redirected sexual energy is powerful :-)
3fubarobfusco8y
Erm ... there's this guy in Rome who tried that ... I think they had some problems.
8Azathoth1238y
Well the institution in question is the oldest continuously operating institution around today so they certainly have something going for them.
0Viliam_Bur8y
With chastity pledge as a part of the job contract.
8gjm8y
Obviously not. Equally obviously, said likelihood has no bearing on the applicant's competence, which was rated substantially and significantly lower by the faculty in the study when the application bore a female rather than a male name. (Good statistics on this seem hard to come by, but it looks like the average age at first birth for college graduates in the US is about 30 nowadays; I'd say the probability of an imminent maternity leave for a 22-year-old with a new job as a lab manager in a university is pretty damn small, even if she happens to be called Jennifer rather than John.)
3ChristianKl8y
Competence in research might mean: "Likelihood that this person has the chance of making a valuable contribution to their scientific field." I don't think that there anything wrong when a science faculty defines competence that way.
0Lumifer8y
I'm too lazy to search for data on education-based cohorts, but only 57.5% of US women are childless by the age of 25 [http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/nvss/cohort_fertility_tables.htm].
8gjm8y
The source I found showed a really drastic difference between college-educated and not-college-educated women.
2ShardPhoenix8y
That's not necessarily irrational in general. The other information on the resume does not prevent the name from also providing potentially relevant information.
9fubarobfusco8y
I'd suggest you look up "screening off" in any text on Bayesian inference. The explanation on the wiki [http://wiki.lesswrong.com/wiki/Screening_off] is not really the greatest. But when you have information that is closer and more specific to the property you're trying to predict, you should expect to increasingly disregard information that is further from it. Even if your prior asserts that sex predicts competence, when you have more direct measures of competence of a particular candidate, they should screen off the less-direct one in your prior.
6ChristianKl8y
If there evidence that the effect size of discrimination stays the same regardless how much information an application provides?
4ShardPhoenix8y
I know what screening off is - I was saying that not all the information is screened off here. There are still other issues given the premise that names taken alone predict competence to some extent. For example, one resume may be more likely to be honest than another, and even if the resume is completely honest, reversion to the mean is likely to be larger in one case than another.
1gjm8y
So: take a look at the paper, or at the informal summary of it to which I also linked, and then tell us whether you consider that -- given all the information provided to the faculty in the application -- knowing whether the candidate is male or female gives anywhere near enough further information to justify the differences in rated competence found by the researchers. It seems to me that for that to be so, there would need to be absolutely huge differences between men and women, so big that no one with any brain and any integrity would deny that men are much much much better scientists than women. Do you think that's the case?
5DanArmak8y
I think that regardless of the actual facts, assuming the difference is counterfactually that large, it's still very plausible that almost everyone would still deny any difference exists, due to political and cultural forces. While I don't think there is such a large difference, I don't accept the argument from "people wouldn't pretend a big difference doesn't exist".

I wasn't merely arguing that if there were such a large difference everyone would admit it. I was also arguing that if there were such a large difference we'd all know it. Obviously this argument will be more persuasive to people who (like me) think it's clear from observation that there isn't so huge a difference between men and women, than to people who don't.

Just by way of reminder: we'd be looking for a difference large enough that, knowing

  • what degree a person got from what institution
  • what their grade point average was
  • what their GRE scores are
  • what was written about them by a faculty member writing a letter of recommendation
  • what they wrote themselves in an application letter

the difference between male and female suffices to make a difference to their estimated competence of 0.7 points on a 5-point scale. That would have to be either a really really enormous difference between men and women, or a really weird difference -- weird in that whatever it is somehow manages to make a big difference in competence without having any effect on academic performance, test scores, or reported faculty opinions. Which presumably would require it to be quite narrow in scope but, again, r... (read more)

3DanArmak8y
It's not entirely clear that these are two different things. Admitting a highly politically incorrect opinion publicly and admitting it to oneself or one's friends aren't really completely separate. People tend to believe what they profess, and what they hear others profess. I suspect one source of the disagreement between us may be that you're assigning a high predictive ability to academic performance, while I don't even assign it a very high correlation. This may be because my intuition is trained on different academic fields. I don't have any experience with scientific lab managers (the job the study's resumes applied for). I do have experience with programmers and other related fields, mostly below the doctoral level. When I first read that I thought: but there is about a 20cm difference in the average heights of men and women! Is gjm arguing the opposite point from what I thought, or maybe being sarcastic? So I checked the average height differences [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Human_height#Average_height_around_the_world] between the sexes, and the male:female ratio is typically between 1.07-1.09. This translates to 8-15 cm of difference. So while it's not as much as 20cm, it's "only" a 2x difference from my prediction. Maybe I'm just bad at translating what I see into centimeters and this difference is much more obvious to you than it is to me. I don't disagree with this. I just think the cultural power of "politically correct" thinking is strong enough to make people ignore truths of the magnitude of this being counterfactually wrong and stick to accepted explanations.
3[anonymous]8y
Maybe gjm's System 1 automatically compensates for the difference -- I know that unless I'm deliberately paying attentìon to people's height I'm much less likely to notice it if a man is six feet tall than if a woman is six feet tall, and for all we know the same might apply to gjm.
1Azathoth1238y
I'm guessing this effect doesn't just apply to height.
0[anonymous]8y
Yeah, I know, people consider my barely basic¹ cooking skills exceptional merely because I happen to have a Y chromosome. That's male privilege for ya. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- 1. At least that's what my System 1 tells me, and I can't think of a way to find out whether the impostor syndrome applies short of having someone who doesn't know my gender taste what I cook.
3gjm8y
Academic performance is one of the things known to the faculty (and the same between the "male" and "female" conditions); it is not the only one. The relevant question is: How much predictive power does the totality of the information provided have, and conditioned on that how much predictive power does the sex of the applicant have? It looks to me as if the answers, on any account of sex differences that I find credible, are "quite a bit" and "scarcely any".
1DanArmak8y
By "academic performance" I was referring to all of these bullet points: Which (from your summary) I understand is pretty much all of the information in the application letter. I'm not claiming that sex differences have predictive power; I'm claiming that academic performance doesn't have as much power as we'd like and recruiters have to look for more info.
0gjm8y
For sure. My apologies if I somehow gave the impression of disagreeing with that. The second half of what I called the "relevant question" above is of course the real key here, and it sounds as if maybe we agree about that.
2ChristianKl8y
No. If the argument is more clear because you think that it supports the outcome that you prefer you are engaging in motivated cognition. It's an error in reasoning.
2gjm8y
But I didn't say, and I don't think it's true, that the argument is clearer "because [I] think it supports the outcome [I] prefer". I "prefer" that outcome, in part, because it seems clear from observation that there isn't that sort of huge difference between men and women. That is not a reasoning error, it's straightforward inference.
1Azathoth1238y
So your theory is that all observed larger number of men at the upper end of any bell curve is due to sexism? And the larger number of men at the lower end of most bell curve, e.g., more men in prison is due to..something? Most of the data I've seen suggests women have lower variance, here [http://www.overcomingbias.com/2008/08/variance-induce.html] Robin Hansen discusses some of the implications about variance in test scores.
9gjm8y
Nope. (What did I say to make you think that?) My position is as follows. * There may well be differences in average performance between men and women in various intellectual tasks, in either direction. Indeed, there are some specific categories of tasks where the evidence for such differences seems strong; the most famous example is probably "mental rotation". The difference for mental rotation is large but not enormous (about 1sd); my understanding is that all other sex differences found in scientific studies are smaller, and there are differences going in both directions. * It seems unlikely to me that there's a big general cognitive deficit on either side. I believe girls are currently doing better than boys in pretty much all subjects at school in my country nowadays; in the past it was the other way around; so whatever differences there are (in this kind of task) must be smaller than the size of difference that can be induced by cultural effects. Of course this is consistent with deficits in very specific areas, with variance differences that affect how many really stellar performers there are of each sex, etc. * There may well be differences in variance between men and women. These differences might be fairly big, but it seems unlikely to me that they're large enough to make huge differences at "ordinary" ability levels. * Once you start looking at the tails of the distributions, I expect them to be quite far from being Gaussian or even symmetrical. There are a lot more ways for things to go badly wrong than for them to go exceptionally right, after all. So I am skeptical about inferences from differences at the "low" end to differences at the "high" end. * There are certainly a lot more men than women in prison, especially if you look specifically at crimes of violence. However, lumping this together with variations in ability seems like a wilful embracing of the halo/horns effect; it s
5Lumifer8y
Kudos for explicitly writing out your nuanced position on a high-likelihood-of-mindkill issue.
4gjm8y
Thanks. Though that high likelihood of mindkill makes it (1) more likely that someone will try to correct my obvious stupid errors when in fact I'm right and they're confused, and (2) more likely that someone will rightly correct my obvious stupid errors when in fact they're right and I'm confused but I won't believe them. Still, the best we can do is the best we can do :-).
0[anonymous]8y
Note that the number of people who are in jail doesn't merely depend on how many commit crimes, it depends on how many get caught committing crimes, and that such a statistic would anticorrelate with intelligence is very nearly obvious to me. (I agree with most of the rest of your comment.)
0gjm8y
Yes, that's a good point. How big the effect is depends on how the probability of getting caught varies with intelligence: I agree that it will almost always anticorrelate, but the dependence could be very strong or very weak. Anyone got any statistics on that?
0[anonymous]8y
I'd guess people who commit crimes but don't get caught are very, very hard to get statistics about.
0Nornagest8y
Hmm. It might be possible to indirectly get some information about them by comparing the kinds of people that get caught for premeditated crime with the kinds of people that get caught for crimes of impulse, and then adjusting for any correlation of intelligence with self-control. The latter ought to be harder to cover up.
0ChristianKl8y
It quite easy to make wrong arguments in favor of positions that are true. If you think that an argument is good just because you think it's conclusion is true it's time to pause and reflect and look at a situation where the same structure of the argument would lead to a conclusion that's false. Even if men and woman are on average equally qualified that doesn't mean that a specific subset is. For a hiring manager it's not important whether there's causation. Correlation in the data set is enough.
1gjm8y
I agree, that's a very bad sign. On the other hand, there's nothing very alarming about thinking an argument is more persuasive when you agree with its premises. And often the premises and the conclusions are related to one another. That seems to me to be exactly the situation here. Premise: There pretty clearly isn't an enormous cognitive difference between men and women that makes women much less competent at brainwork, so much less competent that a moderate amount of information about a person's abilities leaves a lot of male-female difference un-screened-off. Argument: If indeed there isn't, then the best explanation of findings of the sort we've been discussing is prejudice in favour of men and against women that has substantial impact on hiring. Conclusion: There probably is such prejudice, and it probably leads (among other things) to underrepresentation of women in many brainwork-heavy jobs. (Note: the premise, the argument, and the conclusion are all sketchy approximations. Filling in all the details would make the above maybe 20x longer than it is.) I find the argument somewhat persuasive. This is partly because I find the premise plausible; some people might not (e.g., because the evidence they think they have regarding the relative abilities of men and women differs from the evidence I think I have); those people will find it less persuasive. The premise in question is not the conclusion of the argument. It is not equivalent to the conclusion of the argument. It neither implies nor is implied by the conclusion of the argument. It is, for sure, somewhat related to the conclusion -- e.g., by the fact that they are premise and conclusion of a short and simple argument -- and doubtless there is a correlation between believing one and believing the other. I do not find this sufficient reason to think that finding the argument more credible if one accepts the premise is any sort of cognitive error. Perhaps I am misunderstanding your argument somehow. I
0[anonymous]8y
And/or if the argument is less clear to other people because they think it supports the outcome that they don't like they are engaging in motivated cognition.
-1ChristianKl8y
By the same logic you could say that someone who hires people with high SRT scores engages in SRT bias. Someone who hires based on SRT scores could simply reasonably believe that people with high SRT scores are more competent. Google's HR department has a variety of factors on which it judges candidates. A few years afterwards they reevaluate their hiring decisions. They run a regression analysis and see which factors predict job performance at Google. They learn from that analysis and switch their hiring decision to hiring people which score highly on the factors that the regression analysis found predictive. That's how making rational hiring decisions looks like. In the process they found that college marks aren't very relevant for predicting job performance. Being good at Fermi estimates unfortunately isn't as well, so those LW people who train Fermi estimates don't get benefits anymore when they want to get a job at Google. Given current laws Google is not allowed to put values such as gender into the mix they use to make hiring decisions. That means that Google can't make the hiring decisions that maximize predicted job performance. The politics of the issue also make it pretty bad PR for them to publish results about the effects of a model that includes gender if the correct value in the regression analysis would mean worse chances for woman getting a job. It's good PR for them if the correct value would mean to favor woman. No big company that does regression analysis on job performance published data that favoring in gender would mean hiring more woman. Factoring in gender into a regression analysis would mean that any bias against woman in subjective competence evaluations in interviews would be canceled by that factor. Just imagine if a big company would find that by putting gender into their regression analysis they would hiring more women and get better average job performance as a result. Don't you think those companies would lobby Washington to
4gjm8y
Sure. It is possible to construct possible worlds in which the behaviour of the academic faculty investigated in this study is rational and unbiased and sensible and good. The question is: How credible is it that our world is one of them? If you think it is at all credible, then I invite you to show me the numbers. Tell me what you think the actual relationship is between gender, academic performance, job performance, etc. Tell me why you think the numbers you've suggested are credible, and why they lead to the sort of results found in this study. Because my prediction is that to get the sort of results found in this study you will need to assume numbers that are really implausible. I could, of course, be wrong; in which case, show me. But I don't think anything is achieved by reiterating that it's possible for the results of this study to be consistent with good and unbiased (more precisely: "biased" only in the sense of recognizing genuine relevant correlations) decisions by the faculty. We all (I hope) know that already. "Possible" is waaaaay too low a bar.
-1ChristianKl8y
Making wrong arguments isn't good even if it leads to a true conclusion. I haven't argued that the world happens to be shaped a certain way. I argue that your arguments are wrong. LessWrong is primarily a forum for rational debate. If you arguing for a position that I believe to be true but make arguments that are flawed I will object. That's because arguments aren't soldiers. On the matter of the extend of gender discrimination I don't have a fixed opinion. My uncertainty interval is pretty large. Not having a small uncertainty interval because you fall for flawed arguments matters. The fact that humans are by default overconfident is well replicated. But if we become back to grades as a predictor: Google did find [http://www.businessinsider.com/how-google-hires-people-2013-6] that academic performance is no good predictor for job performance at Google. Of course Google won't give you the relevant data as an academic does, but Google is a company that wants to make money. It actually has a stake in hiring high performing individuals. While we are at it, you argue as if scientific studies nearly always replicate. We don't live in a world where that's true. Political debates tend to make people overconfident.
3gjm8y
It looks to me as if that's because you are treating them as if they are intended to be deductive inferences when in fact they are inductive ones. At no point have I intended to argue that (e.g.) it is impossible that the results found in this study are the result of accurate rational evaluation by the faculty in question. Only that it is very unlikely. The fact that one can construct possible worlds where their behaviour is close to optimal is of rather little relevance to that. Among people actually hired by Google. Who (1) pretty much all have very good academic performance (see e.g. this [http://lesswrong.com/lw/km6/why_the_tails_come_apart/] if it's not clear why that's relevant) and (2) will typically have been better in other respects if worse academically, in order to get hired: see e.g. this [http://hardsci.wordpress.com/2014/08/04/the-selection-distortion-effect-how-selection-changes-correlations-in-surprising-ways/] for more information. I conjecture that, ironically, if Google measure again, they'll find that GPA became a better predictor of job success when they stopped using it as an important metric for selecting candidates. Not intentionally. I'm aware that they don't. None the less, scientific studies are the best we have, and it's not like there's a shortage of studies finding evidence of the sort of sex bias we're discussing.
0ChristianKl8y
"Best we have" doesn't justify a small confidence interval. If there no good evidence available on a topic the right thing to do is to be uncertain. The default way to act in those situations is to form your opinions based on meta-analysis. You basically think that a bunch of highly paid staticians make a very trivial error when a lot of money is at stake. How confident are you in that prediction?
2gjm8y
I agree. (Did I say something to suggest otherwise?) Given the time and inclination to do the meta-analysis (or someone else who's already done the work), yes. Have you perchance done it or read the work of someone else who has? Not very. [EDITED to fix a punctuation typo]
0ChristianKl8y
On this topic it seems like your position is that you know that employers act irrationally and don't hire woman who would perform well. My position is that I don't know whether or not that's a case. That means you have a smaller confidence interval. I consider the size of that interval unjustified. In the absence of that work being done it's not good to believe that one knows the answer.
3gjm8y
My position is that I've seen an awful lot of evidence, both scientific and anecdotal, that seems best explained by supposing such irrationality. A few examples: * The study we've been discussing here. * A neurobiologist transitions from female to male and is immediately treated as much more competent [http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/07/12/AR2006071201883.html] . * Another study of attitudes to hiring [http://advance.cornell.edu/documents/ImpactofGender.pdf] finding that for applicants early in their career just changing the name from female to male results in dramatically more positive assessment. (The differences were smaller with a candidate several years further into his/her career.) * A famous study by Goldberg submitted identical essays under male and female names and found that it got substantially better assessments with the male name. (I should add that this one seems to have been repeated several times, sometimes getting the same result and sometimes not. Different biases at different institutions?) * Auditioning orchestral players behind a screen makes women do much better relative to men [http://www.nber.org/papers/w5903]. In each case, of course one can come up with explanations that don't involve bias -- as some commenters in this discussion have eagerly done. But it seems to me that the evidence is well past the point where denying the existence of sexist biases is one hell of a stretch.
2ShardPhoenix8y
I'm not really commenting on the object-level issue, just on the dubious logic of claiming that the name can't matter if everything else is equal. In practice I'd guess it's likely that the difference in rating is larger than justified.
6gjm8y
I'm not sure anyone's quite claiming that. Just that if you asked, ahead of time, a question like "So, what would it take to convince you beyond reasonable doubt that there's bias favouring men over women in the academic employment market?", the answer you'd get would likely be pretty much exactly what this study found. Of course, there are always loopholes, just like a sufficiently ingenious creationist can always find contrived explanations for why some scientific finding is compatible with creationism. The speed of light is changing! The aftermath of Noah's flood just happened to deposit corpses in the layers we find in the fossil record! The world was created with the appearance of great age! Similarly, we can find contrived explanations for why an identical-looking application gets such different assessments depending on whether it's thought to come from a man or a woman. They might be really worried about maternity leave, and choose to define taking maternity leave as a variety of incompetence! There might be differences in competence between men and women that make a big difference to scientific productivity but are completely undetectable by academic testing and unmentionable by faculty! There might be really big differences that everyone conspires not to admit to the existence of! Sure, there might. And the earth might be 6000 years old.
4Azathoth1238y
If this is indeed the case than why isn't the system approaching an equilibrium similar to the one the system reached for Asians, Irish, and Scottish Highlanders [http://isteve.blogspot.com/2012/07/diversity-before-diversity-thomas.html]?
3gjm8y
I don't think I can usefully attempt to answer the question, because it isn't perfectly clear to me (1) what sort of "equilibrium" you have in mind or (2) why you think I should "if this is indeed the case" expect the system to approach such an equilibrium. The linked article, consisting mostly of several pages of Macaulay, doesn't do much to make either of those things clear to me. Would you care to be more explicit?
6Azathoth1238y
The point is that Asians, Irish, and Scottish Highlanders were able to overcome negative stereotypes and "microagressions", and whatever other epicycles the SJW crowd feels like inventing, towards them. Why not blacks and women? You know maybe there really are innate differences involved here.
3gjm8y
The question seems like it has a false premise, namely that women and black people haven't made progress in overcoming those things. In fact the treatment of both groups has improved tremendously over, let's say, the last 50 years. Which is roughly what we might expect if in fact much of the difference in how they'd been treated before was due to bias. (It's probably also what we'd expect if the difference was not due to bias and these groups gained in political power for some reason other than having their genuine merits recognized better. So I'm not claiming this as positive evidence for that bias. But your argument, if I've understood it right, is that the bias theory must be wrong because if it were right then the treatment of these groups would be improving -- and in fact it is improving. I'm not aware of any reason to think it's converged to its final state.)
3Azathoth1238y
I agree the "treatment" has improved. They still can't make it in intellectually demanding occupations except by affirmative action. Let's take the most technologically innovative part of the economy: Silicon Valley. Men massively outnumber women in technology jobs, as for race Blacks are massively underrepresented and Asians are massively overrepresented.
7gjm8y
To avoid begging the question, that should be "don't". 200 years ago it was basically unthinkable for most women to have any role other than parent and housekeeper. 50 years ago it was basically unthinkable for women to have senior leadership roles or to work in the most intellectually demanding jobs. Now it is thinkable but uncommon; at least some of them appear to do pretty well but they are few in number. Prima facie, the continuing underrepresentation could be because of differences in ability distribution or personality traits or sometihng; or because of (reduced but still remaining) prejudice; or some mixture of both. Your argument a couple of posts back, if I understand it right, was: It must be because of differences in ability, because otherwise they'd be doing OK now just like East Asians are. So far as I can see, that argument only works if there's some reason to think that if the past shortage of women in those roles were the result of prejudice, then by now it would be completely repaired. But I see no reason to expect that; prejudices can last a very long time. It looks to me (though I don't have statistics; do you?) as if the current rate of change in women's career prospects is still substantial, suggesting that if the last few decades' changes are the result of prejudice reduction then the process isn't yet complete and we shouldn't assume that we are now at the endpoint of the process.
7Azathoth1238y
Note also that there were no people tacking about "microagressions" or for that matter much in the way of affirmative action when these groups succeeded. Also, the closing of the gender gap appears to have stopped during the last 30 years [http://www.unz.com/isteve/cowen-in-nyt-why-the-economic-gender-gap-will-eventually-close/] .
3gjm8y
That language seems to presuppose that whatever change they achieved has now stopped. As I said above, I think that's very far from clear. That post seems long on anecdote and short on data. Pages 10-11 of this document [http://www.equalityhumanrights.com/sites/default/files/documents/research/gender_pay_gap_briefing_paper2.pdf] seems to show a steady decline in full-time gender pay gap from 1970 to 2010. The part-time figures are weirdly different; by eye they seem to show one downward jump circa 1974, then approximate stasis, then another downward jump circa 2005.
1Jiro8y
What it would take to show that there is bias favoring men over women would involve showing that men are more likely to be hred than women and that this imbalance in hiring rate is not justified.
-1Azathoth1238y
If you apply a high cutoff the difference is pretty big.
9gjm8y
In the present case -- as you would see if you looked at the study in question, which I therefore guess you haven't -- the level of ability we're looking at (for "male" and "female" candidates) is not super-high, and in particular isn't high enough for the sort of variance difference you have in mind to make a big difference. These are candidates with a bachelor's degree only, GPA of 3.2, and all the information in the application designed to make them look like decent but not stellar candidates for the job. We're not talking about the extreme tails of the ability distribution here; the tails have already been cut off.
0Azathoth1238y
All the listed information is actually remarkable little. Like I said below the most "objective" thing on your list is the GRE score and even standardized test scores have high variance [http://www.overcomingbias.com/2008/08/variance-induce.html].
0Azathoth1238y
Would that "everything" include things like college degrees, remember affirmative action is a thing in college admissions. Also, an applicant's sex conveys information, are you sure the other information was enough to completely screen that out? The other thing to take into account is that if I hire a women and she doesn't work out, I risk getting hit with a wrongful termination suite if I fire her.

Would that "everything" include things like [...]

They took the exact same application, sometimes with male-looking names and sometimes with female-looking names, and asked faculty for their opinions about them. The female versions were rated substantially (and significantly at the 0.001 level) worse for "competence", "hireability" and "willingness to mentor this student". The gap in estimated competence was about the same in size and significance as the gaps in the other metrics, which to me seems to indicate that differences in fear of a wrongful termination suit didn't contribute much if at all. (On looking at the relevant bit of the paper, the authors agree and have some statistical analysis that allegedly supports this view.)

When asked roughly what starting salary they'd offer the applicants, the "female" applications attracted ~12% lower figures.

(The details are all there at the other end of the link I gave.)

are you sure the other information was enough to completely screen that out?

I'm not completely sure of anything, ever. But: The information included: age, degree granted and university that granted it, GPA, GRE score... (read more)

6Jiro8y
If women are more likely to use maternity leave or otherwise devote more resources to family and less to the job than men are, and if they are more likely to sue for sexual harassment than men, then most of these assessments could be correct; seeing a female name actually does give information.
7gjm8y
As I have said a few times already in this thread, the numbers make it look very much as if the dominating factor was an assessment that the "female" candidates were less competent than the "male" ones. Lack of commitment and increased lawsuit risk don't seem to me like matters of competence and I would expect the faculty surveyed to share that opinion. Do you have a rough estimate of (1) how much more likely women would have to be than men to do those things, in order to justify a difference in evaluation of the magnitude found by this study, and (2) how much more likely women actually are to do those things? (Two remarks in regard to sexual harassment lawsuits. 1: I think the relevant figure isn't how much more likely women are to file such suits but how much more likely they are to file them when no harassment has really occurred. But perhaps not: suppose women are more likely to be victims of sexual harassment sufficient to justify a lawsuit, and therefore more likely to file such lawsuits; then one possible position would be to consider women less desirable employees on those grounds and rate them as less competent. Personally, I think that would be odious, but I can imagine that some people might disagree. 2: My understanding is that actually such lawsuits are really rather rare, much too rare for rational consideration of their risk to yield the reported difference in evaluation even if (a) all such lawsuits are assumed groundless but successful and (b) the resulting losses in productivity and collegiality are assigned to lack of "competence" by the person filing the lawsuit. However, I don't have extensive statistics on this and will be happy to be corrected if wrong.)
1Azathoth1238y
The problem is that "whether sexual harassment has occurred" isn't all that well-defined. You can of course define "sexual harassment" however you want but then you have to establish you it's a bad thing. For example, from a briefing at the company I work at the examples of "sexual harassment" was: 1) a woman goes to work in somewhat provocative/revealing clothing and a male coworker complements her on her appearance. 2) a manager used the phrase "guys and gals". Frankly if these examples are typical of "sexual harassment", I'd say sexual harassment isn't a problem.
2gjm8y
Did either of these examples result in lawsuits?
2Azathoth1238y
I don't know, the presenter didn't say. Although the fact that these were presented as examples of behaviors not to engage in, is telling. Also even if they don't bring a lawsuit, the fact that they make an issue out of these kinds of things is not conducive to a good work environment.
5gjm8y
Of course I wasn't there. But it occurs to me that there are several reasons why "marginal" examples might actually be the most useful: * To define the region of (concept-)space a thing occupies, you might want to point to a few places on its boundary. * There's little point telling people "raping your co-workers is bad; don't do it" because anyone to whom that isn't already obvious is probably a lost cause. * Marginal examples might be more likely to provoke useful discussion. I'd put the examples you give in the category of (not typical examples of sexual harassment, but) things that are frequently harmless but (1) might cause easily-avoided annoyance or upset in some cases and so should maybe be avoided and (2) in some cases might indicate, or be thought to indicate, an underlying bad attitude (women in the workplace being seen primarily as eye candy; women being seen as lower-status and akin to children). I repeat: of course I wasn't there and don't know exactly what your presenter said about these examples. If s/he said "these things are definitely harassment and you could get in serious trouble for doing them" then I'd regard that as unreasonable; if s/he said "these things may seem harmless, and often they are, but you should still avoid them", I'd agree. Anyway, I mention all this just in the interests of mutual understanding; it's all kinda irrelevant to the question of whether "greater risk of sexual harassment lawsuits" is a good justification for rating an identically-described person as substantially more "competent" if they have a male name than a female name. Do you really think it is?
4Azathoth1238y
The problem is that it causes people to treat it as an archetypical example. I fail to see why it should be policy to cater to people who are clearly being unreasonable.
6gjm8y
For one thing, because being unreasonable is simply What People Do and it seems better to care about outcomes in the real world than outcomes in some imaginary world where everyone is always reasonable. So if doing something predictably results in a bunch of people being upset, then it might be better to avoid it even if it would be better for everyone if they weren't upset by it. For another, because what's "clearly unreasonable" to one person may be "clearly reasonable" to another. It may seem "clearly unreasonable" for a woman to have a problem with having her appearance complimented by her male colleagues. But if what she's found is that over and over again her male colleagues comment on her (and other women's) appearance, and never on their ideas, while the reverse happens to the men around her ... why, then, I have some sympathy if she gets frustrated by yet another compliment on her appearance. (It might in some sense be better for her to focus not on the compliments on her appearance but on the absence of response to her work. But actual things that actually happen are easier to see and more psychologically salient than absences, even when the absence is the bigger underlying problem.) Only people who are -- how shall I put it? -- clearly being unreasonable. One might prefer not to make policy on the basis of people who are clearly being unreasonable :-). Seriously: yes, I agree that that's a potential problem. The obvious solution seems to me to be to make it as clear as you possibly can when you're talking about central examples and when you're sketching the boundaries. Unfortunately, I bet there will always be (clearly unreasonable) people who don't take any notice and either mix the two up or pretend to. I'm not sure much can be done about that.
2[anonymous]8y
I mostly agree (and upvoted), but... Well, complimenting people wearing attractive clothes is is simply What People Do and it seems better to care about outcomes in the real world than outcomes in some imaginary world where no-one ever notices other people's clothes. So if wearing certain clothes predictably results in a bunch of people commenting on your appearance (and it annoys you), then it might be better to wear more modest clothes yadda yadda yadda. ;-)
1gjm8y
You say that like you expect me to disagree, but I don't think I do. (But I would generally avoid saying so to the people in question, which I might not on the other side, because it seems more obviously unreasonable to have to avoid wearing nice clothes to work than to have to avoid complimenting people's clothing at work. I'm not terribly sure how much sense that makes, though.)
4Azathoth1238y
It seems even more unreasonable to be to wear sexy clothes (how did "sexy" turn into "nice"?) and then object when someone comments on them. Frankly the only way I can explain the woman's actions are that she was either insulted that the complementer was too low status or trolling for an excuse to accuse someone of sexual harassment.
1gjm8y
I don't think it did, exactly. I just didn't assume that clothes that could be described as "somewhat provocative/revealing" necessarily belonged in the bucket labelled "sexy" rather than the one labelled "nice". To be more precise: (1) what is viewed as provocative or revealing is highly dependent on who's doing the viewing (see, e.g., Victorian England or many Muslim-dominated places today; but similar variation occurs at the individual as well as the societal level), and (2) person A may wear clothes that person B finds "revealing" without the least intention of attracting sexual attention of any sort. I have no quantitative data (and doubt whether any exist) but have more than once heard women complain that their choice of clothing was treated by a man as some sort of attempt to provoke when in fact they were just wearing something they felt comfortable in or liked the look of. (I have a feeling there is pretty decent scientific evidence that men tend to overestimate the extent to which women's behaviour is intended to signal sexual availability or interest, but don't have references to hand. It seems like a plausible hypothesis on the usual handwavy evo-psych grounds, for what little that's worth.)
2Azathoth1238y
I don't know what she was wearing, I heard it from the lawyer doing the briefing, but he did mention her undoing some buttons. In any case, if I came to work wearing a suite, we dress casually, I'd expect people to comment on it.
1[anonymous]8y
I was about to go ‘sweatshirts for example are comfortable but definitely not provocative’, then I remembered reading that when men talk about comfortable clothes they tend to mean physically comfortable whereas women tend to mean socially/psychologically comfortable (as in this comment [http://lesswrong.com/lw/kwc/open_thread_sept_17_2014/ba2q], though I don't know if Nornagest is a woman). (Then again, being comfortable in the latter sense with wearing certain clothes but not with being complimented for them sounds weird to me.)
9gjm8y
Sure. It sounds a bit weird to me too, for what it's worth. But the whole point here is that the reasons why something is unpleasant to one person may be far from apparent to another. Anecdotally, it seems that many women have the experience of being persistently treated (so to speak) as ornamental rather than functional, of having their male colleagues pay attention to their appearance while neglecting their work. Someone in that situation may not be glad of compliments to her appearance even if she has gone to some trouble to look good. An analogy occurs to me. Let's suppose that an important part of your employment is writing analytical reports of some kind. Stock market forecasts, competitive analysis of other companies' products, software requirements, that sort of thing. You write these reports. You hand them over to your boss. And he takes a look and says "Nice choice of font." or "I see you spelled 'accommodate' correctly, well done." A single instance of this is harmless and you'd probably be glad of it. But it happens again and again, much more often than any substantive comment (positive or negative) on the actual content of the reports you're writing. After a while, you might start taking these comments as indicating that your boss either thinks the content is no good, or for some reason simply doesn't much care about the content. You might find that being complimented on your excellent use of quotation marks makes you feel bad, not good, about how valuable your carefully calculated and checked risk assessment is to the company. And you might feel that way even if, as a matter of fact, you did put some care and skill into spelling and punctuating correctly and presenting the report attractively.
2Azathoth1238y
Now who's making highly implausible theories and arguing that they're "possible"? Well, if I had made an unusual choice of font, I'd expect that reaction.
2gjm8y
It doesn't appear to me to be a highly implausible theory; it's a thing many women actually complain about. My understanding is that quite a few women report male attention going disproportionately to their clothes and appearance even when they aren't wearing anything very unusual.
0Jiro8y
Also, there are other employees around who are proud of their use of quotation marks and specifically expect that they be complimented on them. Some of them even leave reports on their desks with pages of words prominently displayed just so that people will compliment them on their punctuation. And there are even more employees who really want to be complimented on their use of quotation marks, but only from people with small noses. This unusual preference is something they don't want to admit, so these other employees, when complimented by someone with a big nose, pretend to be like you and be offended because they are not being complimented on content, when that's not true at all. I think in an environment like that you should expect to get complimented on your punctuation quite a bit.
0ChristianKl8y
The problem with compliments isn't so much that woman often don't enjoy getting them. There are many cases where they don't, but that's not the central issue. The problem is that it's hard for a man to compliment a woman on her appearance and at the same time not let it influence how he treats the woman in their professional function. The availability heuristic is a central part of how humans make decisions and if the attribute that most available is "attractive" instead of "skilled-at-job" that matters.
1Azathoth1238y
On the other hand the halo effect also exists.
0Jiro8y
The problem with the problem is that not everyone actually means that. And the ones who don't mean it end up reducing the credibility of the people who say it and really mean it.
0[anonymous]8y
Sure. But after a couple times I compliment on your punctuation and you don't take it well, I should get the hint and realize that you aren't one of those people. (And whether you do like to be complimented on punctuation by people with smaller noses¹ than mine is irrelevant; if you don't like it when I do it, I should stop it, at least until I can afford a rhinoplasty.) I was about to go ‘but there's a large difference between writing in a formal standard grammatically correct way and writing in a way that fishes for compliments!’, then I remembered that that's probably much less the case in the America than where I am (see e.g. [1] [http://lesswrong.com/lw/efs/call_for_anonymous_narratives_by_lw_women_and/7ejy] , [2] [http://lesswrong.com/lw/fms/lw_women_entries_lw_meetups/8ugn]; by comparison where I am you can just wear canvas sneakers or tennis shoes, jeans, and a T-shirt or a sweater, and that's not necessarily considered sexy but not necessarily slovenly either, regardless of your gender), so never mind. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- 1. “Native speakers” would be a less silly allegory, BTW.
2Jiro8y
Using your analogy of native speakers, people want to be complimented on their punctuation by native speakers only. When complimented by anyone who doesn't speak well enough, they lie and say "I don't like it because you're not complimenting me on the quality of my work", when they're really just using it as a cover for an implied insult of "I hate people with your accent". This proceeds to the point where everyone knows that the former complaint is just an excuse for the latter. Then you come along, and you really want to be complimented on the quality of your work. You're going to be mistaken for those other guys quite a bit.
3[anonymous]8y
Doesn't change my point. If you are predictably annoyed when I compliment on your punctuation and I know it, I'd better stop it if I don't want to be a dick, regardless of why it annoys you.
-1Jiro8y
I don't believe that. For instance, if you are white, I am not, and you are offended by compliments because you are offended whenever a non-white person talks to you or even sit next to you, it's not me that's being a dick by offending you, it's you who's being one by being offended by things that you have no right to be offended by. That's essentially what's going on here--some people who are offended are offended for a reason that doesn't deserve to be respected (they dont like someone's accent/they don't want to be complimented by someone low status), and they lie and pretend they are offended for a reason that does deserve to be respected (they don't want shallow compliments).
0[anonymous]8y
Not wanting to be complimented for being sexy by unsexy people doesn't deserve to be respected? WTF? Would you be okay with it if someone you're not only not attracted to in the slightest but perhaps even repulsed by said something to the effect that they would like to bang you (even though not with those words)?
0Jiro8y
I might want to restrict such things to being said only by someone who I'm in a relationship with, but that's different from restricting such things to only being said by all beautiful people.
0[anonymous]8y
Then it's not a lie. That's not how natural languages work. If everybody knows that when people say X they mean Y, then X means Y, regardless of etymology. There's no stone tablet in the sky that specifies what X actually means regardless of when people actually say X and when they don't. (Or would you say that someone saying “it's raining cats and dogs” in absence of domestic carnivorans falling down from clouds is lying?) And if of the possible ways of wording a complaint someone chooses the one least likely to hurt my feelings, why should I hold it against them, rather than being grateful for that?
0Jiro8y
Hold on. I'm not arguing that X doesn't mean Y. I'm arguing that X does mean Y, and that explains why people treat Y as X. (X=I don't want to be complimented by ugly/low status people, Y=I don't want to be complimented based on superficial attributes, by anyone).
0[anonymous]8y
Tapping out.
1Nornagest8y
I meant "comfortable" as an attribute of the social situation in that comment, not of the clothes I'd be wearing in it. If I were wearing sweatpants to a wedding, for example, I'd likely find them comfortable but I wouldn't be comfortable. (I'm a guy.)
2[anonymous]8y
Well, that's not obvious to me, anyway... Well, these aren't mutually exclusive. Can't we do both? Postel's law, anyone?
2Azathoth1238y
Postel's law would mean not throwing a fit when someone complements your clothing.
0[anonymous]8y
Yes, that too.
1gjm8y
I thought that was what I was suggesting is best -- at least if it happens that the women in question can actually avoid having the men focus on their appearance by making changes in clothing. I can't help suspecting (though I have no actual evidence) that in such cases their options are actually "get unwanted compliments from men who focus on their appearance and ignore their ideas" and "get unwanted critical comments from men who focus on their appearance and ignore their ideas", with perhaps a little middle ground where they get both positive and negative comments on their appearance and still have their work overlooked.
-2Jiro8y
While lawsuits may be rare, they are expensive, and people are risk-averse. Also, the range of behavior that has to be avoided to avoid an unjustified lawsuit is much wider than the range of behavior that has to be avoided to avoid a justified lawsuit, and since even unjustified lawsuits are expensive, the former category is what really matters.
0gjm8y
Your second paragraph seems to be agreeing with the first of my parenthetical points, but it sounds as if it's intended to be a point of disagreement. I mention this just in case it turns out that one of us has misunderstood the other. Unjustified lawsuits are probably cheaper -- you're more likely to win them, more likely to win them quickly, and more likely (in jurisdictions where this is a real distinction) to have the plaintiff have to pay your legal costs.
0Jiro8y
It was disagreeing with your second point, "much too rare for rational consideration of their risk to yield the reported difference in evaluation". If the person is risk-averse, then it's not too rare for rational consideration of the risk to yield the difference. (Don't assume that risk aversion is inherently iirational. It's not.)
0gjm8y
I don't understand. It was your first paragraph that was pointing out risk aversion. The second paragraph was the one about unjustified versus justified lawsuits. (Let me try to bridge one possible inferential gap by remarking that I think unjustified sexual harassment lawsuits are also very rare.)
3Azathoth1238y
For a lot of colleges the hard part is getting in, and getting the degree isn't that hard conditional on getting in.
7gjm8y
That would be why the application also included the applicant's GPA. And also both GRE scores. And a bunch of other things.
-6Azathoth1238y

I think that "microaggression" is a poor term, it adds negative connotation and restricted usage to standard, if subconsciously biased, human behaviors. The article uses another one, "implicit bias", which has exact same meaning but without the baggage.

In my experience, "implicit bias" and "microaggression" aren't used to refer to the exact same things — although I can see the analogy.

"Implicit bias" refers to a measurable unconscious tendency to favor one group over another, even when one doesn't have any explicit beliefs justifying that favoritism. For instance, if you ask someone, "Are green weasels scarier, stinkier, or otherwise less pleasant than blue weasels?" and they (honestly) say that they do not believe so ... but when you look at their behavior, on average they choose to sit further away from green weasels on the bus, that could be described as implicit bias. They claim that they are not repelled by green weasels, but they measurably act like they are.

We might link implicit bias to Gendler's concept of alief), or to Kahneman's concept of a System 1 response.

"Microaggression" describes a social exchange that — without deliberately attacking or insulting a group — reinforces negative stereotypes about that group, or an assumption that the group is lower-status or beneath consideration. A few examples:

  • Acting surprised that a person you meet does not match a stereotyp
... (read more)
3Azathoth1238y
The problem with this definition is that it's very possible for someone's explicit beliefs to be false and "implicit beliefs" to be true. Thus it is problematic to call this a "bias" without establishing that the underlying beliefs are false. "Microaggression" strikes me as an epicycles attempting to rescue the theory that race and gender don't correlate with anything. Original theory: all these differences are due to differences in the way society treats these people, so we bad treating them differently and even implement laws requiring preferential treatment. However, the achievement gaps remain, they can't be due to innate differences because that would be racist and sexist, hence they must be because t̶h̶o̶s̶e̶ ̶e̶v̶i̶l̶ ̶w̶i̶t̶c̶h̶e̶s̶ ̶a̶r̶e̶ ̶c̶u̶r̶s̶i̶n̶g̶ ̶t̶h̶e̶m̶ these evil white men are engaging in microaggressions.
5fubarobfusco8y
A different approach: Are my aliefs interfering with my agentiness? For instance, if I'm trying to get a project done with a team of programmers, and my aliefs keep identifying the women on my team as "mothers" instead of as "coders" (or more generally "workers"), that might interfere with my ability to usefully work with them towards my explicit goal. In other words, even if it is true that those women could very well be or become mothers, in the context of deliberately pursuing a goal involving writing code, that isn't pertinent. (It's not as if they're choosing to flash their motherliness at me!) The implicit association of "woman" with "mother" and not "worker" might be encumbering me from being as agenty as I would like to be. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- I'm having difficulty reconciling your comment about microaggressions with how I hear the term used, to the extent that I don't think we're talking about the same thing at all. I'm reminded of Davidson on beavers, as cited by Eliezer here [http://lesswrong.com/lw/sb/could_anything_be_right/].
-2Azathoth1238y
A better example is: if there are women on the team and my aliefs keep identifying them as worse coders but my beliefs tell me that women are just as good a coding as men. In this case it very much matters whether the beliefs or aliefs are true.
5fubarobfusco8y
On the contrary, if you're in a situation of collaborating with someone, then it's pretty widely recognized as a bad social habit to be constantly trying to judge them. Even worse if you're judging them on their group memberships (or other generalities) rather than their actual individual performance in the collaboration! It's impractical to build consensual working relationships with people who notice that you're treating them as inferiors. (Oh hey, are we talking about microaggressions again? Maybe ...)
5Azathoth1238y
Have you ever actually worked with people on a coding project? Have you ever worked with idiots on a coding project? It's very important to know who you can trust and whose code has to be double checked. Also I have a question I need to know who I can ask to get an answer and who would simply be a waste of time.

Have you ever actually worked with people on a coding project?

Yep! I've been in the industry for fifteen years, and you've almost certainly benefited from stuff I've worked on. But you're acting hostile, so I don't care to give you any more stalker fodder.

As far as I can tell, some of the worst people I've worked with were ① the judgmental, arrogant, abusive assholes; and ② people who had been victims of said assholes, and so had taken a "heads down gotta look busy" attitude out of fear and shame, instead of a transparent, work-together attitude.

Or to put it another way, ① the people whom you can't ask questions of, because they will call you an idiot and a waste of time; and ② the people who have been called idiots and wastes of time so much that they don't ask questions when they should.

The technical incompetents are straightforward to filter out. Tests like FizzBuzz weed out the people who claim that they can code but actually cannot. It's the attitude incompetents, the collaboration incompetents, — the ones who harm other people's capability rather than amplifying it — that are more worth worrying about.

(Oh, and everyone's code has to be double-checked.)


Also, stop downvoting comments that you also respond to. That's logically inconsistent — downvoting means something doesn't belong on the site, not that you disagree with it. If it doesn't belong on the site, then responding to it and continuing the conversation also doesn't belong.

6kalium8y
I don't think this follows. If a comment contains a glaring logical fallacy, I could consistently both downvote it and point out the flaw in the argument. Not claiming that's what's happening here, though.
6gjm8y
I agree that this is generally good advice, but question your assumption (unless you have inside information?) that Azathoth123 is doing that. He's getting an awful lot of downvotes on his comments in this discussion too. [EDITED to add: The reason why that's evidence against the Azathoth123-mass-downvoting hypothesis is that it increases the credibility of a different explanation for those downvotes, namely that some third party doesn't want this sort of discussion at all and is downvoting everyone involved.] Azathoth123, if you're reading this: Would you care to comment on whether you've been dealing out dozens of downvotes to people who have disagreed with you in this discussion? (My guess is that you haven't, but explicit confirmation would be nice to have.) Whoever is doing it, if you're reading this: If you are aiming to stop the discussion or to stop participants on one or the other side, it isn't working and I don't think it's likely to work. If you are aiming to stop discussion of mindkilling topics, again it isn't working and I think the actual effect is that you are increasing the mindkillingness of the topic by making people feel more under attack. If you are aiming to make people feel harassed and upset in the hope that they will leave LW, or something of the kind, then fuck you; that kind of behaviour is not welcome here and I hope you get kicked off with extreme prejudice.
8Anders_H8y
I have sent a private message to Villiam Bur asking him to check whether Azathoth123 is posting from the same IP as Eugine_Nier. Azathoth appeared shortly after Eugine was banned, and holds similar political opinions. They have similar posting patterns, and both have been accused of downvote abuse. This is only a hypothesis based on circumstantial evidence, but I think it needs to be investigated. I sympathize with Azathoth's willingless to have a rational discussion about this publicly, and have frequently upvoted him. However, this downvote abuse thing is ruining the community and needs to be dealt with.
2ChristianKl8y
To add to the circumstantial evidence: -Nicknames that end in numbers are a minor sign of inauthentic accounts. -Naming an account after a Cthulhu God would fit in the general neoreactionary pattern. -Both accounts like to quote Nassim Taleb in the quotes thread. I feel a bit embarrassed for not noticing it earlier but I think it's with 90% Eugine.
0[anonymous]8y
Also, Azatoth123 is knowledgeable about modern physics at a deeper-than-teacher's-passwords level (see e.g. the thread where he and I were trying to disabuse Thomas of his misconceptions about special relativity), as was Eugine.
1shminux8y
10:1 s/he isn't Eugene Nier.
0[anonymous]8y
1:1 he is, but I don't object to him making a clean start as long as he behaves himself this time around. The recent downvote “abuse” doesn't actually sound that egregious to me.
4Anders_H8y
I also would not object to a clean start. However, I think any systematic downvoting of a user's old comments, regardless of the scale, is abuse. This is not only likely to drive new people away from the community, it is prima facie evidence that the perpetrator is mindkilled. Neoreactionaries come to the rationalist blogosphere because we are the only people on the internets who are willing to engage them in debate. This is because we have a community standard that tells us to listen to people as long as they are arguing in good faith and appear to have acceptable epistemic standards. However, when they turn discussions into "wars" and use not only their arguments but also their downvotes as soldiers, they are violating the very community standards that brought them in. The rationalist blogosphere can either call them on it, or risk turning into an outpost of of their "dark enlightenment".
5gjm8y
Isn't it possible -- likely, even -- that some of them are in the rationalist blogosphere because, as well as being neoreactionaries they are in fact rationalists? Just as some other participants in the rationalist blogosphere are socialists, Buddhists, polyamorists, or members of any other not-completely-bugfuck-crazy group you might care to mention? Framing the issue in terms of dangerous invaders messing up our territory is tempting, but I don't like the look of some other things it pattern-matches to, and I'm not sure it isn't just plain factually wrong. And the moral and practical implications of the behaviour we're talking about don't really depend on where the neoreactionaries in and around the LW community came from.
1Anders_H8y
I agree with this. I did not intend to imply that all neoreactionaries are non-rationalists or that they are all mindkilled. I understand that my comment could be interpreted that way, and I apologize for this. My criticism was intended to apply only to the subset of participants who try to shut out other contributors by downvoting their old comments, or by using other dirty discussion tactics that turn arguments into war. These people exist on both ends of the political spectrum. I am convinced that many neo-reactionaries have made a huge contribution to Less Wrong, and I very much appreciate their presence here. Politically, I am very strongly in favor of enlightenment values, but I also appreciate seeing arguments against my values stated in their strongest possible and purest form. This allows me to create a much better model of my opponents, and gives me a much clearer view of the failure modes of my own political philosophy. Because of these discussions, I have accepted that neo-reactionaries have important things to say about several current political issues (though I reject their overall philosophy) The fact that I can engage with these arguments in the rationalist blogosphere but not at my academic institution (where similar discussion would be shut down immediately with extreme prejudice, regardless of the quality of the arguments), is very telling both about the current state of academia, and about the importance of forums like Less Wrong
1Vulture8y
While your explicit claims may be true, I think we should be careful about framing civility problems in terms of ideology, if only because such seems like it could exacerbate the problem.
2Toggle8y
I've also noticed a pretty strong tendency for my posts to be downvoted at about the same time that Azathoth posts a dissenting reply (in previous conversations). The association is strong enough that I have some reflexive negative feelings about dialogue with them- I'm distinctly getting 'trained' not to reply to Azathoth's comments, whether or not it's Azathoth who is actually doing the downvoting. EDIT: Normally, I wouldn't ask who it was that downvoted this comment. But for obvious reasons, a -1 score on this post isn't a very clear signal. If you downvoted this comment and are not Azathoth, then letting me know who you are would help avoid misunderstandings.
0gjm8y
OK, so my probability estimate for Azathoth123 being Eugine redivivus is increasing. Anyway, for anyone else who is feeling that same sense of being "trained not to reply" (to Azathoth123 or anyone else), I strongly recommend fighting it. Don't let abusive manipulators win! (For the avoidance of doubt, this is not a general recommendation to ignore downvotes. Only to ignore them in situations where it's reasonably clear that they don't in fact carry much signal and there's strong reason to suspect that someone is trying to exploit the system.)
-1fubarobfusco8y
It was happening within a handful of minutes. I wouldn't call it mass-downvoting, just the bad practice of downvote-and-disagree.
5ChristianKl8y
If we work with people on a coding project letting their code speak for them is probably a lot more useful then making your assessment based on prior information that has nothing to do with coding.
0Azathoth1238y
Agreed, the problem is that when you do that "what the code says" tends to be correlated with all kinds of other stuff that it is politically incorrect to notice.
1[anonymous]8y
Everybody's. Including my own.
4[anonymous]8y
In principle it is possible that women in general are just as good a coding as men in general but the particular women on your team happen to be worse than the particular men on your team.

Looking at this comment section... wow. Yes, regularly encountering people who behave like Azathoth at work would be a level of (not really micro) aggression that could easily drive me out of a company, and I consider myself to have a pretty thick skin. Seems like there's no level of achievement a woman could reach that he'd see as strong evidence of competence. Doesn't matter if she has a physics degree from Caltech, no, her professors probably just passed her out of sympathy. Doesn't matter if she's written good code in the past, no, her references must ... (read more)

5kalium8y
Huh. Two downvotes on this, fair enough. But I've also gotten another 9 downvotes for old unrelated comments in the very short time since I posted this. Smells fishy.
2Lexico8y
I've also went from a steady 23 total karma all in dead posts from a couple of weeks ago, and went down to 14 after posting this. I'm still rather new here, but I do remember reading that downvote stalking had become an issue in the past. Did LW ever resolve any policies to help combat that?
0ChristianKl8y
That seems wrong. Woman do get hired from time to time because an employer considers them to be competent and Azathoth doesn't object to that status quo.
5kalium8y
Yeah, I was pissed off and stated things a little too strongly. But having your every achievement constantly doubted and assumed less meaningful than the same achievement from a man really is corrosive, and I would say also makes it hard to be productive and encourages the "keep your head down" mentality that fubarobscuro mentioned.

I think the article makes a strawman:

Academics hold tightly to the view that progress in our system is meritocratic. Hiring, decisions about article publication, citation of the work of our peers, the awarding of research funds, raises, promotions and more are determined, we believe, rationally, as a result of the objective evaluation of clearly stated requirements for advancement.

I don't think most academics think that either hiring decisions, publication decisions or citation decisions are 100% based on explicit criteria. Indeed anybody who doesn't ... (read more)