Archive for October, 2008

Opinion Polls and Their Biases

October 29, 2008

I am getting better and better on how to avoid biases in polls. 

I have been reading things this year that are helping me learn where I, we, human beings are likely to go wrong in interpreting data.  Here is a letter I sent to my sister, on the occasion of her forwarding a Newt Gingrich document with some opinions that totally lacked any information on the sampliing (size or composition) and its biases:

We, humans, myself included are prone to question things that we agree with *far* less than things we do not agree with.  The same would happen for me if I found some opinion poll that was based on a sample that agreed with my views, which of course, this does not – not remotely.
For more information on things like sample biases, and opinions about what will and won’t work I can recommend about 3 books that I’ve found very educational on how to interpret things like what you sent.
There is almost no bias here toward any position, just research on humans and how we make decisions and form opinions.
1.  How We Know What Isn’t So:  The Fallibility of Human Reason in Everyday Life  – Thomas Gilovich
2.  On Being Certain: Believing You Are Right Even When You Are Not  – Robert Burton
3.  Stumbling on Happiness – Daniel Gilbert
and then this one, maybe, which I have not read, but have on order:
4.  Blink:  The Power of Thinking Without Thinking – Malcolm Gladwell
I think it is good to learn how to think through these things and make decisions before we are railroaded by poorly-done studies and emotionally charged rhetoric that sways us because we already agree with something.

I may have already posted this elsewhere, but another important piece is to understand and notice Logical Fallacies. Here are two excellent links:

It is interesting to me how anyone who agrees with what that document (or voter information or advertisements or the news  or  . . . ) says might not question the validity of the sampling.

If we learned how to evaluate these things, at least by high school, I think it would help tremendously with things like how to vote.


“All You Need Is Love” – Umm, No

October 6, 2008


I respectfully beg to differ with the four gentlemen from Liverpool on this point.

Love is most definitely not all you need! 

If that were the case, any one of my marriages and affairs would still be going. Oh, in some sense, they are. In the *ahem* immortal words of Catherine Deneuve in “The Hunger,” “I love you!  I loved you all!”  Yes, well.

I’ve been relating and watching relationships and studying relationships all of my life.  There are, so far, about 5 couples whom I believe have the kind of relationship I would like to have – well, at least in a general sense. What I think works for them, makes the difference, is that each of them takes care of their own side of the street.

Yes, they clearly have shared interests, and I’ve seen each learn something of the other’s interests, and that is good. They seem to be able to co-habitate and decorate a home together. Love can do all of that. Sharing is really important.

I have had drama-free relationships for most of the last decade.  I like that.

There has been relatively little drama since my last marriage ended in 1996. Still, there has not been enough sharing to suit my desire for it. I described one relationship this way:  he lived on the top floor, I lived on the bottom, and we met in the middle for dinner and sex. We thought we had more in common than that. So did my ex-husband and I.

Oddly, this man I seem to have 2 generations of difference with, shares more with me than any of them did in some ways. I could totally do without the drama.  It is diminishing over time. And there is much yet to learn about each other and how that works. That will take some time, maybe a long time.

Then, if there is enough sharing, comes the important question:  how do we handle conflict?

With the 5 couples I mentioned, it appears that neither of them blames the other for their own upset – and if they find themselves doing that, they realize the fallacy of it rather quickly and get clear with each other.

That seems to work.

It’s working for me right now.

I don’t think Paul or I has a clue why we are so drawn to each other. We just are.

Is it just sexual?  Well, it could be – but somehow I don’t think so. 

Right now, the best thing I think we can do is learn to relax into this – neither pushing forward nor pulling away, and see what happens when we rest in each other – and enjoy the love while other things develop that we “need.” ***



*** PS – I would love to have a better word for it.  Katie has it right in her book, “I Need Your Love – Is That True?”  Of course not!  We don’t “need” anything. Or we have everything we need. But you get my point. And until we coin better words for “is-ness” and “being-ness,” well, I’ll use the ones we have and caveat them.

Quote o’ the Day – John Lennon – Watching the Wheels Go Round

October 1, 2008

People say I’m crazy doing what I’m doing,
Well they give me all kinds of warnings to save me from ruin,
When I say that I’m o.k. they look at me kind of strange,
Surely your not happy now you no longer play the game,

People say I’m lazy dreaming my life away,
Well they give me all kinds of advice designed to enlighten me,
When I tell that I’m doing Fine watching shadows on the wall,
Don’t you miss the big time boy you’re no longer on the ball?

I’m just sitting here watching the wheels go round and round,
I really love to watch them roll,
No longer riding on the merry-go-round,
I just had to let it go,

People asking questions lost in confusion,
Well I tell them there’s no problem,
Only solutions,
Well they shake their heads and they look at me as if I’ve lost my mind,
I tell them there’s no hurry…
I’m just sitting here doing time,

I’m just sitting here watching the wheels go round and round,
I really love to watch them roll,
No longer riding on the merry-go-round,
I just had to let it go.