Credibility and Bias Reasoning Skills Practice (page 2)
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Credibility and Bias Reasoning Skills Practice
Practice Exercise: Bias
Read the following scenario. Write B next to anyone whom you think might be biased. If you think the person is likely to have an unbiased, reasonable opinion, write U in the blank.
Scenario: Congress is currently debating a tax reform proposal that makes filing taxes easier.
- The author of the proposal
- A professor of tax law
- A tax preparer
- The average taxpayer
Practice Exercise: Expertise
Rank each of these three sources in each area of expertise. Use 1 for the source with the most expertise and 3 for the source with the least.
- Knowledge of movies:
- ___Times review
- Knowledge of you and your taste in movies:
- ___Times review
Using the criteria to determine expertise, read the following choices and choose the source with the most expertise. Which one do you think has the least? Why?
- What cell phone you should get:
- the cell-phone company
- your children
- the ad on television
- Consumer Reports magazine
- What type of running shoes to buy:
- your father
- the shoe salesperson
- your coach
- Runner's World magazine
- What to wear to the awards dinner:
- your best friend
- your boy/girlfriend
- an article in Cosmo magazine
- the clerk at Forever 21 store
Practice Exercise: Eyewitness Credibility
Imagine you are a police officer who has just arrived at the scene of a fight between two young men on a street corner. Three people witnessed the incident, which occurred at 9:00 P.M. You arrive and begin interviewing witnesses at 9:20 P.M. The street corner is well lit.
- Who do you think is the most credible witness, and why?
Witness A is an elderly woman who was sitting on the stoop about ten feet from the corner. She was wearing her glasses, but she admits that she needs a stronger prescription. Her hearing, however, is fine. She doesn't know either boy involved in the incident, though she's seen them around the neighborhood before.
Witness B is a friend of one of the boys but does not know the other. He is an outstanding student at the local high school and a star basketball player. He was at the deli around the corner buying bread when he heard the boys shouting and came out to see what was going on. He had just had a fight with his girlfriend.
Witness C is a stranger to the neighborhood. He was crossing the street toward the corner when the boys started fighting. He has 20/20 vision. He is 45 and has two teenage children. He was only a few feet away from the boys when the fight occurred.
The author of the proposal (1) has a vested interest in the proposal and in seeing that it is passed. A tax preparer (3), meanwhile, has a vested interest in the proposal being rejected, because if the reform makes filing taxes easier, he just might lose business. The professor (2) may have a definite opinion about the proposal, but chances are she's pretty objective—she doesn't win or lose by having the proposal passed or rejected (except, of course, as a taxpayer herself). And the average taxpayer (4) will probably like the proposal and for good reason, but not because of any bias.
- Knowledge of movies: 1–Times review; 2–coworker; and 3–sister. Even though your coworker may not be a professional movie critic like the writer of the Times review, he goes to see enough movies to have developed some expertise. You may not agree with his criteria for determining what makes a good movie, but at least he should be granted some credibility.
- Knowledge of you and your taste in movies: Probably 1–sister; 2–coworker; and 3–Times review, though this order can vary greatly, depending on the situation. Where you rank the Times review depends entirely upon your past experience with the Times. If you've never read a Times review before or you don't usually, then it should probably be ranked as the lowest in expertise here. However, if you regularly read the reviews, you may have found that you generally agree with the opinions of the reviewers—that is, you usually like the movies that get good reviews and dislike the movies that get poor ones. In this case, you can rank the Times review first. On the other hand, you may have found that you generally disagree with the reviewers—that you usually like the movies that they don't. In that case, the Times review would be the lowest on your list.
- d. The cell-phone company is not about to recommend another phone even if they know it would be the better choice. They can only promote their own products and the sales person may even be working on commission so certainly has a bias. The same is true of the television ad; its sole purpose is to sell you a product so has a built in bias. Your children are probably pushing the phone that happens to come with extras for the family, so don't listen to them. The magazine is unbiased and has no personal interest in your decision—follow their recommendations.
- c. Your father may be looking at the price tag before anything else and the salesperson wants to make a commission on the sale. The magazine article is definitely better because it is not biased, but the journalist doesn't know you or your feet. In the case of shoes, your coach is the authority. He knows you, how you run, and what you need on the track to succeed.
- a. Your best friend is more likely to be honest if something does or does not look good on you. Your boy/girlfriend is more likely to be biased or even more reluctant to say something does not look good. Cosmo doesn't have a clue who you are and the clerk is looking for a sale, not an honest opinion.
- Though Witness C may have been distracted by traffic, chances are he's the most credible eyewitness. He was heading toward the corner and was looking at the boys. He may not have been able to hear what happened in the beginning, but he should have been able to see exactly what occurred. His vision is perfect and there's no reason to suspect any bias.
Witness A is probably next on the list. Though she may not have been able to see as clearly as Witness C, she was close enough to have heard what passed between the boys. Again, we have little reason to suspect bias.
Witness B is probably the least credible witness. Though he has a good reputation, he has two strikes against him. The first is that he is friends with one of the boys, so he may be biased. The second is that he had just had a fight with his girlfriend, so he may have been distracted and not paying much attention.
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