Vegetarianism Ideological Turing Test Results

by Raelifin 2 min read14th Oct 201526 comments

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Back in August I ran a Caplan Test (or more commonly an "Ideological Turing Test") both on Less Wrong and in my local rationality meetup. The topic was diet, specifically: Vegetarian or Omnivore?

If you're not familiar with Caplan Tests, I suggest reading Palladias' post on the subject or reading Wikipedia. The test I ran was pretty standard; thirteen blurbs were presented to the judges, selected by the toss of a coin to either be from a vegetarian or from an omnivore, and also randomly selected to be genuine or an impostor trying to pass themselves off as the alternative. My main contribution, which I haven't seen in previous tests, was using credence/probability instead of a simple "I think they're X".

I originally chose vegetarianism because I felt like it's an issue which splits our community (and particularly my local community) pretty well. A third of test participants were vegetarians, and according to the 2014 census, only 56% of LWers identify as omnivores.

Before you see the results of the test, please take a moment to say aloud how well you think you can do at predicting whether someone participating in the test was genuine or a fake.

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If you think you can do better than chance you're probably fooling yourself. If you think you can do significantly better than chance you're almost certainly wrong. Here are some statistics to back that claim up.

I got 53 people to judge the test. 43 were from LessWrong, and 10 were from my local group. Averaging across the entire group, 51.1% of judgments were correct. If my Chi^2 math is correct, the p-value for the null hypothesis is 57% on this data. (Note that this includes people who judged an entry as 50%. If we don't include those folks the success rate drops to 49.4%.)

In retrospect, this seemed rather obvious to me. Vegetarians aren't significantly different from omnivores. Unlike a religion or a political party there aren't many cultural centerpieces to diet. Vegetarian judges did no better than omnivore judges, even when judging vegetarian entries. In other words, in this instance the minority doesn't possess any special powers for detecting other members of the in-group. This test shows null results; the thing that distinguishes vegetarians from omnivores is not familiarity with the other sides' arguments or culture, at least not to the degree that we can distinguish at a glance.

More interesting, in my opinion, than the null results were the results I got on the calibration of the judges. Back when I asked you to say aloud how good you'd be, what did you say? Did the last three paragraphs seem obvious? Would it surprise you to learn that not a single one of the 53 judges held their guesses to a confidence band of 40%-60%? In other words, every single judge thought themselves decently able to discern genuine writing from fakery. The numbers suggest that every single judge was wrong.

(The flip-side to this is, of course, that every entrant to the test won! Congratulations rationalists: signs point to you being able to pass as vegetarians/omnivores when you try, even if you're not in that category. The average credibility of an impostor entry was 59%, while the average credibility of a genuine response was 55%. No impostors got an average credibility below 49%.)

Using the logarithmic scoring rule for the calibration game we can measure the error of the community. The average judge got a score of -543. For comparison, a judge that answered 50% ("I don't know") to all questions would've gotten a score of 0. Only eight judges got a positive score, and only one had a score higher than 100 (consistent with random chance). This is actually one area where Less Wrong should feel good. We're not at all calibrated... but for this test at least, the judges from the website were much better calibrated than my local community (who mostly just lurk). If we separate the two groups we see that the average score for my community was -949, while LW had an average of -448. Given that I restricted the choices to multiples of 10, a random selection of credences gives an average score of -921.

In short, the LW community didn't prove to be any better at discerning fact from fiction, but it was significantly less overconfident. More de-biasing needs to be done, however! The next time you think of a probability to reflect your credence, ask yourself "Is this the sort of thing that anyone would know? Is this the sort of thing I would know?" That answer will probably be "no" a lot more than it feels like from the inside.

Full data (minus contact info) can be found here.

Those of you who submitted a piece of writing that I used, or who judged the test and left their contact information: I will be sending out personal scores very soon (probably by this weekend). Deep apologies regarding the delay on this post. I had a vacation in late August and it threw off my attention to this project.

EDIT: Here's a histogram of the identification accuracy. 

Histogram

 

EDIT 2: For reference, here are the entries that were judged.

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