Just because something feels true doesn’t mean it is true.
Thanks for this enlightening post, Annie. I, too, initially believed Danziger’s ‘hungry judges’ study. It’s troubling that Kahnemann et al. uncritically endorse this in ‘Noise’, ignoring significant criticisms. On page 17, they assert: ‘For example, judges have been found more likely to grant parole at the beginning of the day or after a food break than immediately before such a break. If judges are hungry, they are tougher.’
Wonderfully written, Annie.
Science self-corrects but slowly. This is true not just for social sciences but also for hard sciences. The replication crisis continues to snowball with easier publication via preprints, for example. And with autosummarization and AI it's only become easier for popular science media to communicate questionable findings. But as you say beliefs are incredibly sticky and long after a theory has been corrected, it continues to linger in its older erroneous form. Are there any examples where collective intuition has been put on ice until the science has been corrected? Or is this simply the cost of doing science?
There is a trivial way to establish whether the effect is real: randomize the people applying for parole without the judges knowing that that's what's happening. It's easy to see what's in front of you; it takes a real pro to notice that something's just a little bit off--like that unrepresented prisoners are being mixed in with represented ones. It would honk off attorneys representing prisoners because they'd have longer waits, but it would tell the tale.
What the study did was essentially collect a series of anecdotes. Anecdote is not the singular of data. If you want to find out the truth, you have to find a way to consider all possible cases. Only then, and when you have enough data points so that the probability that you have specious results becomes minuscule, do you have facts.
Before I retired, I practiced neurointerventional surgery [don't bother trying to pronounce it]. Sometimes cases were quite long. One of my trainees once simply accepted that angiographers are chronically hypoglycemic. My brain worked just fine with little fuel since logic doesn't require much besides oxygen. Didn't mean I wasn't hungry, tho. And patients did as well before lunch as after it. And in the middle of the night.